The banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), dubbed as the single largest threat to India’s internal security by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had set up a base in the city to propagate their ideology and to connect with the youth. The Naxalite allegedly used a reading library situated in the slums along the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) in the western suburbs for this purpose, a witness has told the police. The witness in his statement to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has named Surya Devra Prabhakar, an alleged naxalite leader who was arrested by the ATS on January 19.
Prabhakar, a member of the politburo and one of the top most leaders of CPI (Maoists), was arrested from Kanjurmarg and he had been working in the city since 1991, trying to lure people towards the naxalite ideology, the witness has said.
Prabhakar had been a member of the organisation since 1978 and was a member of the Maharashtra State Committee of the CPI (Maoists). He allegedly controlled operations for Dahanu, Wada, Palghar and other rural areas and had, therefore, set up base in Mumbai.
“He used to preach his ideology before a group of people at the library. Prerna Wachnalay, situated on JVLR helped him get an audience,” said the witness in his statement.
According to the witness, whose testimony is part of the charge sheet filed by the ATS against Prabhakar in August, Prabhakar used to regularly visit the slums at JVLR and had developed friendship with locals by offering them help by paying their bills and performing their small chores. Prabhakar spoke of the naxalite struggle and activities of the erstwhile People’s War Group (PWG), the witness has stated in his statement.
When the Hindustan Times visited the library on Monday, it was found locked and locals there refused to say anything about it. “It opens at 7pm and people come here to read books,” a man in mid-20s, who was sitting nearby said. He refused to talk further.
On dialing a telephone number that was printed on a poster, which was put up outside the library, a man who identified himself as Milind (refused to give his second name) answered the call and said the library was recognised by the government. “There are all kinds of books here,” said Milind, adding that the membership fee is nominal.
Milind said he did not know who Prabhakar was. “There is no restriction on anyone becoming a member,” he said.