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Police hopeful about combating Naxal menace after arrest of Sabyasachi

 

Posted on 24 Jul 2014

Last updated 06 Jul 2016

  India, Maoist Movement, Sabyasachi Panda, Police, Odisha
Sabyasachi Panda was believed to going weaker with less number of cadres in his group. His differences with the leaders of Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) Special Zonal Committee leaders came to light when he admitted, while speaking to a selected group of journalists in his camp, that involvement of Maoist outfit in killing of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, which resulted in a violent class conflict in Kandhamal in 2008, was a “mistake” and didn’t even follow the ideological path of mobilising mass opinion before going for annihilation.
Basudev Mahapatra
   

The arrest of Sabyasachi Panda alias Sunil, the Maoist leader from the eastern Indian state of Odisha who was in the police list of Most Wanted Insurgents, is claimed to be a massive success of the state police and its intelligence force. Involved in the abduction of two Italian tourists Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo in the year 2012, the attack and loot of the police armoury in his home district of Nayagarh, in 2008, and several cases of violence and murder, as per police claims, Sabyasachi Panda would provide several clues on the whereabouts of the looted arms and ammunitions, operational systems and secrets of Maoists and their source of finance, which would help in tracking the Maoist movement and help countering the insurgency, hopes the police of Maoist affected states of the eastern India.

So, after producing Sabyasachi in the Berhampur court, Police has taken him on remand for interrogation which may extend for more days as happened in most such cases.

The claims made and hopes raised by the police raise two major questions: Is the arrest of Sabyasachi truly a spectacular success of the police? Is the arrest of Sabyasachi going to affect Maoist operations in Odisha and neighbouring states?

In the last two years, Sabyasachi was believed to going weaker with less number of cadres in his group. His differences with the leaders of Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) Special Zonal Committee leaders came to light when he admitted, while speaking to a selected group of journalists in his camp, that involvement of Maoist outfit in killing of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, which resulted in a violent class conflict in Kandhamal in 2008, was a “mistake” and didn’t even follow the ideological path of mobilising mass opinion before going for annihilation.

His act of abduction of two Italian citizens couldn’t even help strengthening his position in the party. Rather, Sabyasachi was criticised for abducting foreign nationals who were not the part of state their war was meant against. Many even termed this act a self-interest driven one after the release of his wife Subhashree Das aka Mili Panda was made one of the conditions for release of the abducted Italians.

His 16 page letter addressed to CPI-Maoist general secretary Ganapathi and two other senior leaders highlighting the ill-doings of AOBSZC leaders, which fell in the hands of police and media during transit, led to further anger against him in the other camp. This led to his increased isolation and expulsion from the CPI-Maoist party in 2012.

Though he attempted to revive his strength by announcing “Odisha Maobadi Party” (OMP), after being expelled from CPI-Maoist party to give his activities a banner, it couldn’t gather adequate strength in terms of cadres and sympathisers. Rather, many of his cadres surrendered and a few were killed by the police. It’s only a few days since merger of OMP and CPI-ML (Janashakti) and formation of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) Party that Sabyasachi fell in Police trap.

Sabyasachi was isolated from all sides and was leaving a life threatened by the armed Police and colleagues of his old party. As noted journalist Rahul Pandita mentions in one of his reports, “He feared that the Maoist leadership had intentions of eliminating him.”

Apprehending that the Police would shoot him at the first sight, a group of Gandhian activists appealed him to surrender and join the mainstream. But Sabyasachi declined to do so saying that such a move would indirectly endorse the State policies which he had been terming as anti-people in nature to serve the interests of bourgeois or capitalist forces. He didn’t want to negate his own views of the State by surrendering before it.

It’s, however, fortunate for him and his family that he was arrested alive by Police. Many see the arrest as a planned drama, most possibly, with some political motives because Sabyasachi would play vital in establishing his past links with some political leaders against whom the ruling party wants to score.

“Surely some strings somewhere accelerated the process and finally he is under the state custody,” said Dr K Anuradha, a development activist working on land issues and tribal development.

So, if things are such, the success claim of police seems to be a hollow one. But, there is no doubt that the arrest would work as a morale booster for the state police and insurgency combating forces.

Police, however, hopes that it can get some important leads from the data stored in the seized laptop of Sabyasachi which would be helpful in tracking the Maoists and understand their style of operation. It may also get contacts of Maoists their sympathisers working in urban places for “expansion of the revolution on basis of the principles of proletarian internationalism,” as declared by Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) in its fifth Conference of May 2013.

Mentioning that “South Asia is ripe for new democratic revolution,” the conference resolved to "Seize power where it is possible, develop ongoing people's wars to higher levels, prepare and initiate people's war where parties exist and build up parties where they don’t.”

Several activities of merger and expansion of the left-wing extremist (LWE) networks during the past months have been inspired by this idea of expansion.

Merger of Communist Party of India (CPI) Marxist-Leninist – Naxalbari, having influence in Kerala, Karnataka and Maharastra, with CPI – Maoist, as claimed in a joint press release issued on May 1, 2014, has extended the operational area, called red corridor, of the LWEs from the borders of Nepal and Bhutan in the north to the southern peninsula connected throughout by ranges of hills and forests bearing most of India’s mineral and water sources. Even, several dalams (squads) have been amalgamated to form bigger and powerful groups.

The extended corridor from northern borders of India to southern peninsular state of Kerala will serve as the highway to expand the radical movement to other south Asian countries and take it forward while making India the epicentre of “new democratic movement,” as the LWE parties refer to it, in the Indian sub-continent.

Under this expansion plan, there is no doubt that the two south Indian committees, Andhra Pradesh State Committee and the AOBSZC will entertain and exercise more power in expanding activities in the region.

In such a situation, how arrest of Sabyasachi Panda, a Maoist leader who operated in parts of Odisha only is going to be help police of Odisha and the bordering states in combating Maoist extremism?

It’s a fact that most of the left-wing extremist groups operating in India are primarily rooted to the earlier movements of Andhra Pradesh, for the cause of greater Telengana state, and the armed uprising of Naxalbari by peasants in West Bengal that has given an alternative identity to the LWE cadres who are also called ‘Naxals’ in India. Sabyasachi too entered the radical movement through the Andhra Pradesh movements run by the People’s War Group.

As he worked as a part of the AOBSZC of CPI-Maoist party and, at times, with AP State Committee leaders, he would be well aware of the movement route and operational style of the leaders and their squads. Since most of the leaders across the country are produced by these two Andhra Pradesh based committees, Police would get more information on the leaders operating in different parts from him. It’s reported several times that Sabyasachi had good link with several senior leaders and central committee members of CPI-Maoist party.

Expecting that his knowledge of the movement and leaders of the party would help to a great deal, the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Police would also seek Sabyasachi in its custody. More than 60 criminal cases have been slapped on Sabyasachi in AP as well, said the report.

“Though Panda is said to have lost his control over the region, the (AP) police officials are confident that he will furnish some information on the Maoist activities that would help the police in keeping a tab on the Left wing extremists on the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) area,” said a report in The New Indian Express.

This way, the “Revolution’s Poster Boy,” as Sabyasachi was termed by journalist Rahul Pandita, bears enormous importance for the anti-insurgency forces of India even after being treated as an “old dog,” as referred by Panda himself in his 16 page letter to the central leaders of CPI-Maoist party, by his former colleagues.

It’s for this reason, however, Sabyasachi Panda can be counted as a prize catch for the Police.

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