Till arrest, not an inkling of Maoist or political links
Of the three men convicted of sedition by a Chhattisgarh court this week, the least well known is perhaps Piyush Guha, 40, a trader in tendu leaves whom even the Bengal police and Naxal sympathisers claim not to have heard of till his arrest in 2007.
In three years of courtship and then three more of marriage, Rupa Guha found no evidence of any links to politics, let alone Naxalism, she says. “He loves books and used to read a lot of Rabindranath Tagore. I never once saw him reading Maoist literature,” says Rupa, now 34, fighting what she calls a lone battle from her home in a North Kolkata lane, near Manicktala.
She said they would challenge the verdict in the Chattisgarh High Court and the Supreme Court if necessary. She is upset at the absence of support from any quarter, human rights groups or Naxals, when there is such an outcry for “others in the case”.
Guha grew up in Sagarpara in Murshidabad district, graduated in science from Gurudas College in Kolkata, got a diploma in hardware engineering and worked for two years in a private company. He then went into business, buying tendu leaves from Chhattisgarh for beedi makers in Murshidabad.
Rupa says he disappeared on May 1, 2007, their third wedding anniversary. “He called from Raipur and told me he had a reservation for May 2 and would reach home early on May 3. He had no cellphone but used to call twice a day. The calls stopped; I went to Raipur on May 5. On May 6, I was told he had been arrested,” says Rupa.
The Raipur police say they seized some letters for Maoists, allegedly routed from jailed Naxal Narayan Sanyal through Binayak Sen, and money allegedly meant to fund Naxal operations. Rupa says, “He was carrying Rs 50,000 as payment for tendu leaves.”
Shortly after the arrest, Piyush’s father Sunil Guha, a retired headmaster from Sagarpara village, died, allegedly of shock. Rupa was then living in Santoshpur but moved out after police raided the house and questioned her several times.
Three months ago, Piyush’s mother Usha Rani Guha died, hoping he could visit her once. “I appealed to the Supreme Court but he was not granted bail. The police and the court did not even grant him parole so that he could attend the last rites of his parents,” says Rupa.
Since the arrest, Guha has been to his home state once, brought on transit remand in connection with a 2005 terror case in Purulia. Ashok Prasad, SP of Purulia in 2007, said Guha had not been named in the original FIR. Police officers and people following the Naxal cause said they had never heard of him before. Guha was eventually granted bail in the 2005 case.
Today, Rupa supports herself with a small DTP unit in Sealdah. With her meagre earnings, she has been to Raipur 40 times over the past three years, attending every hearing, optimistic that the case against her husband was weak.
“I had full faith in the law and democracy and that is why I did not miss a single date of the proceedings. I believed there must have been some mistake somewhere in booking my husband under charges of sedition,” says Rupa, stunned by the verdict. IE