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Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 09:54 UK

India Maoist official in custody

Paramilitary troops in Lalgarh
Troops are moving in to wrest control of the Lalgarh area from rebels

A court in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta has remanded a leading Maoist "spokesman" in custody after he walked out of a talk show on a TV channel.

Officials said Gour Chakrabarty was initially detained for interrogation but has now been remanded on suspicion of involvement in Maoist activity.

In his interview on a local TV station, Mr Chakrabarty defended Maoist violence in the Lalgarh area of West Bengal.

The arrest comes days after forces launched an offensive in the area.

On a Tuesday evening talk show on a Bengali TV channel, Mr Chakrabarty said the Maoists were the only revolutionary group in India "capable of achieving radical social change".

He said the Indian federal government was a "stooge of US imperialism" and the Communist government in Bengal "not very different".

As Mr Chakrabarty walked out of the TV station, waiting policemen detained him and took him away in a jeep.

Mr Chakrabarty is a member of the Communist party of India (Maoist), which has been recently banned by the government.

He had been to many TV shows after the offensive on Lalgarh started, defending the Maoist position in public.

'Close relations'

Calcutta police commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarty said that Gour Chakrabarty is being held under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The Maoists were banned on Monday by the Indian central government under the terms of the UAPA for "maintaining close relations with a banned organisation."

Bengali artists meeting villagers in Lalgarh
Artists tried to broker peace between rebels and the government

West Bengal police have also charged three top Bengali artists - filmmaker Aparna Sen, theatre personalities Saonli Mitra and Kaushik Sen - with violating the Indian Penal Code by visiting the Lalgarh region of West Bengal state, where Maoist rebels are fighting paramilitary troops.

Saonli Mitra told the BBC that she was shocked at being charged.

"We went to Lalgarh in full knowledge of the state administration... The government is framing us," she said.

The trio had visited the enclave of Lalgarh "to gauge the situation there" and offered to mediate between the Maoists and the state government.

Security forces say that they have now taken control of Lalgarh and the vast jungle region around it, but armed Maoist squads are still reported to be in the area.

Maoist-linked violence has killed 6,000 people in India over two decades.



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