Kolkata: Suchitra Mahato, once a dreaded name in Bengal’s red corridor, exercised her democratic right at a polling booth in Bankura district on Wednesday as part of what could be a turning point in the modern history of India.
A former rebel, Suchitra played a major role in the 2010 attack on the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp at Silda of West Midnapore district, when 24 troopers were killed. She was indicted in over 17 cases including murder, arson and extortion.
After the death of her husband Sashadhar Mahato, also a Maoist rebel, she was put in charge of West Midnapore district’s Lalgarh-Binpur squad, one of the most lethal rebel squads that operated in Junglemahal (forest stretches of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulai districts) of West Bengal.
Suchitra, who later become a close associate of Maoist general Koteswar Rao, alias Kishenji, is believed to have been with him when he was killed in a gun battle with security forces in the Burishole forest of the district in 2011.
She later appeared before the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state’s secretariat, the Writers’ Building, on March 2012, where she formally surrendered.
That day, Suchitra stood beside the democratically Banerjee and urged the red rebels to come back to the mainstream.
On Wednesday, many of her former comrades who also gave up arms inked their fingers to vote, marking a new start.
“This is the biggest achievement of this election,” a poll official in charge of the district said. “Our security measures have ensured that polling booths, which saw a single voter turnout in 2009 saw a turnout of 75 per cent this time. People are displaying their faith in democracy.