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Arrest of Sabyasachi Panda a planned game!


Posted on 19 Jul 2014

Last updated 06 Jul 2016

  Sabyasachi Panda, Odisha, Police, Maoist, India
Sabyasachi Panda, as Odisha Police claimed and CM Naveen patnaik confirmed, was arrested from Berhampur Badabazar on 17 July 2014 during night. The events emerged in a chronological order, sudden change of tone and usage of words from all quarters, made it look like a planned surrender to an extent and not an arrest. It is not clear because many things are not clear but contradictions are there in the whole drama.

Dr K Anuradha


“He will never surrender as surrender is equal to suicide” - these were the words of Mili Panda, wife of Odisha’s known Naxal leader Sabyasachi Panda, who of late joined electoral politics. Sabyasachi Panda who was leading the Naxal movement in parts of Kandhmal, Gajpati and Rayagada districts of the State and was on the top of the wanted list of the State police as an insurgent Maoist leader.

The events emerged in a chronological order, sudden change of tone and usage of words from all quarters, made this look like a planned surrender to an extent and not an arrest. It is not clear because many things are not clear but contradictions are there in the whole drama.

It would not be wrong to say that he had no option except recreating this mirage as all his resourceful, strong over-ground links are in jail. Or, is it that the state repression escalated so much that getting arrest was the last resort? So this arrest throws several questions where everyone is contended in their own roles. Of course, there were few intellectuals who wrote a letter to Panda to come to the mainstream.  But, surely some strings somewhere accelerated the process and finally he is under the state custody.

As the news came in the media, he was arrested from Berhampur Badabazar on 17 July 2014 during night and kept in a secret place where he was under interrogation. Higher officials of the Police who addressed the media told that police obtained two lakh rupees in cash, one laptop, five pen-drives, 10 cell phones and many other articles. When the media rushed to take the reactions of his wife Mili panda, who was very cordial and was ready to answer the press, she came out with many statements and one has to read between the lines. After the initial worry about her husband’s health, she said five pertinent things within the 10 to 15 minutes interaction with the media and which of course indicated that this arrest or surrender was planned which might be contradictory to the so called Naxal leaders and the way they operate.

Mili Panda said:

1. Law will take its own course but he has no links and he has been falsely implicated in these cases. And she is going to extend all support required by the police.

2. She emphasised that since two years he has not been involved in any violent activities and has been maintaining a distance from the violent Maoists.

3. Many political leaders also do have criminal backgrounds but still they are elected and has a position, similarly he will also be acquitted soon from the cases.

4. Asked that her husband is involved in killing of more than 34 security personnel, she answered, “who has seen and who has the visual evidence of those killings? So he will also be released. And this step by the police where he has not been encountered but arrested made her happy as he is already in the main stream.”

She, however, claimed that all the information given by the police is completely forged as far as the seizure of articles from Panda is concerned.

This is quite contradictory to what police said, that he has been involved in several cases in Rayagda, Gajapati, Nayagarh and other places. Does it mean that she tries to prove that all the allegations made by the police are false and police is ineffective? She also claimed that the law could not prove anything against her and she was released after two and half years. Does it mean that our law has many loopholes and any criminal can simply escape through it? The police officials or any security personnel who risk their lives and work in the Naxal affected regions, leaving their families behind, with all dangers make arrests and don’t even get any reward for it. How can they satisfy their morale hearing such statements that a leader like Sabyasachi Panda will also be released!

Wife of the police officer who was killed during the Nayagarh attack (operation ropeway) said, “Panda should be punished severely.”

The stage is set, elections are over, monsoon sessions of the assembly is running and Chief Minister comes and declares that Sabyasachi is arrested while congratulating the police department especially from the Ganjam district and announced that the police will be rewarded.

One fact raising suspicion in this whole episode is the stay of Panda in the same house for the last 25 to 30 days, which is quite contradictory as research shows that leaders of such stature always change their places every two to four days to go unnoticed and escape any kind of arrest. But in Panda’s case he was staying in the same place for the last 25 days waiting to be arrested by the police?

Whether arrest or surrender of the Naxal Leader Sabyasachi Panda has brought him in mainstream now, as his wife stated and the Chief Minister also appealed to shed violence, there is a hope that many things can be done constructively and adopting non-violent means than with violence.

The state government thanked the media for giving a good coverage and told, it will update the media timely. Since the news on Naxalism and a chit-chat with naxal leaders are always sensational, whoever breaks or makes the news in the media takes the credit. Be it from the media or one that fits in the profile of naxal sympathiser, a certain amount of glamour is always attached to it.

Of course, the democratic organizations and their sympathisers are expected to appreciate Panda’s efforts and the extremists will lambast. And, researchers will analyse and interpret depending on the facts and events.

Sabyasachi may be released after a couple of years. But, what shall be the fate of his allies? What will happen to the plight of the people who have lost their near and dear ones in the crossfire during different operations? How the state is going to justify and satisfy all the questions? Only time can give us the answers.

[Author works on issues related to land and tribal development.]

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