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Maoist death mystery reveals party tensions

Aman Sethi

RAIPUR: The rumours began along the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border and rippled around through the forested hills. A letter dropped off at Tawalgarh village in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, revealed the death of a man in his mid-forties with a distinctive scar on the right hand.

This April, The Times of India reported the death of Mangal Singh Korchami, alias Divakar, secretary of the North Gadchiroli Divisional Committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), citing a letter sent by Maoists to his family at Tawalgarh. The scar on Divakar's hand, it appeared, was a relic from a tiger attack many years ago.

The April 26 report quoted unnamed security agents as having claimed that Divakar was killed by Maoist cadres who believed that their leader had plans of surrender; other reports indicated that he might have overdosed on anti-malarial medication. His body, never recovered, is presumed to be have been cremated somewhere in Gadchiroli's jungles.

Did Divakar commit suicide or was he murdered?

While intelligence experts admit to a degree of success in breaching insurgent groups in Kashmir and the northeast, the CPI(Maoist) cadres have proved much hard to ‘turn.' Yet, the circumstances surrounding Divakar's death suggest that the Maoists could also prove vulnerable to infiltration.

“There have been some problems in Gadchiroli,” said Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya special zonal committee of the CPI(Maoist), in a recent telephone conversation. “Last year, the party initiated a rectification campaign across all Maoist divisions, and in Gadchiroli in particular. At a plenary meeting organised last year, there were extensive self-criticism sessions among the cadres.”

Maoist sources told this correspondent that a disproportionate number of cadres from North Gadchiroli had surrendered in the last few years, including the Maoist-turned police informant, Suresh Halami, and Maharashtra State committee member Renu (who supposedly defected to the police after she was demoted).

Mr. Usendi said Divakar had joined the CPI(Maoist) in 1992 and headed the Tippagarh military dalam for many years before taking charge of the entire North Gadchiroli division. “We first began noticing disciplinary problems about a year and a half ago,” he said. Divakar began maintaining contacts with ‘known police informants' and could not account for his movements.

“He would suddenly disappear without telling anyone,” said Mr. Usendi. “But he was a senior leader, so no one really questioned him.” Senior Maoist leaders also received reports that Divakar was misappropriating party funds and extorting money from civil contractors without the party's permission. “We received a complaint from the wife of a contractor who told us that Divakar had demanded money from, and subsequently killed, her husband,” Mr. Usendi said.

Divakar's detractors included his wife, a Maoist commander called Jyoti. Her charges were rejected twice as the leadership suspected personal motives behind her complaints, but an investigation was launched when she complained the third time. “Divakar was questioned at the December [2010] plenary meeting and asked to give a full account of his movements and actions,” Mr. Usendi said. “He was then demoted and removed from his post.”

In April, a State-level investigating team was dispatched from Dandakaranya (a Maoist division corresponding to the five southernmost districts of Chhattisgarh) for a deeper review.

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