Deepak, 40, a senior leader of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), was arrested late Tuesday on the outskirts of Kolkata, the state-run Doordarshan television reported.
Deepak is known to be a close associate of senior CPI-Maoist politburo member Kishenji alias Koteswar Rao, who has been leading rebel operations in eastern India, according to intelligence sources.
Deepak was in charge of the rebels’ armed operations in West Bengal, of which Kolkata is the capital, and adjoining Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand states.
Deepak is accused of masterminding the attack on a paramilitary post at Silda in West Bengal on February 15, which killed 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles troops.
Maoist rebels are active in 20 of India’s 28 states, according to government data. More than 1,100 people were killed in violence linked to the insurgency in 2009.
The governments of several states where the rebels are most active are currently involved in military operations against the insurgents.
Deepak’s arrest came days after the apparent failure of attempts at starting negotiations between the rebels and the government.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said at a press briefing Tuesday that the guerrillas’ truce offer in February was “somewhat bizarre” because the rebels continued their attacks hours after offering the cease-fire.
Maoist leader Kishenji made the offer over television channels on Feb. 23, saying the rebels were ready for a cease-fire from Feb. 25 to March 7 if the government stopped its operations against the Maoists and concentrated on development efforts.
“In the seven days since then (the offer), there have been 18 significant acts of violence in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal,” Chidambaram said.
“These include land mine blasts, killing of civilians alleged to be police informers, attacks on police parties, ambushing of trucks and other vehicles, and blasting of school buildings,” Chidambaram said.
“I may point out that 11 lives have been lost.”
In the latest incident, an armed band of more than 100 Maoist rebels attacked a village in Bihar’s Munger district Monday night and beheaded two people in public, accusing them of being police informers.
Maoist rebels operate in some of India’s poorest areas, especially less-developed forested regions populated by tribal people.
The rebels claim they are fighting for the rights of forest dwellers, the poor and landless.
Deepak’s arrest was the biggest catch for the police since the arrest of Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy in September, Doordarshan quoted intelligence sources as saying.
Trained as a mechanical engineer, Deepak was an expert at explosives, the sources said.
Both he and Kishenji hail from India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh but had been operating in eastern India for more than a decade.
Deepak has been underground for more than 20 years and faces at least 50 criminal charges, most of them in Andhra Pradesh, the sources said.