Search intensified for OMP leader’s base in dense Bhaliaguda

Security forces have intensified the search operation to pin down Odisha Maovadi Party (OMP) chief Sabyasachi Panda and augmented the forces in the jungle bordering the Ganjam and Gajapati districts.

The OMP’s second-in-command Pradip Majhi was killed on Monday.

Personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Special Operation Group (SOG), the District Voluntary Force (DVF) of the two districts as well as local police of the area were involved in the operation, said Deputy Inspector General of Police Amitabh Thakur, speaking to The Hindu.

The DIG said Sabyasachi would not have been able to escape from the area since the encounter with security forces in Bhaliaguda jungle at the Ganjam-Gajapati district border on November 14, 2012, in which five alleged ultras had been killed. Pradip was killed in an encounter a few km away from Bhaliaguda jungle. After the Bhaliaguda encounter, security forces had kept the whole jungle area under a strict vigil.

Senior police officials involved in the recent operation felt that the dense jungle and hilly terrain of the area were a major obstacle to tracking down Sabyasachi and his group.

The recent operation was aimed at cornering Sabyasachi into surrendering. Odisha Director General of Police (DGP), Prakash Mishra on Monday repeated his appeal to Sabyasachi to surrender. But a day later, Sabyasachi, in an audio release, refused to surrender.

“The area is very dense. The group might have hidden inside the jungle. Security personnel are trying to locate their base by stepping up the search operation,” Gajapati Superintendent of Police C.S. Meena said.

According to police sources, the operation to corner Sabyasachi had been intensified since February, when the OMP cadres kidnapped two persons from the Mohana police station area in Gajapati district.

The incident, coupled with the absence of any police complaint from villagers or kin, seemed to confirm Sabyasachi’s presence in the area to the police. Both abducted persons managed to escape and alerted the Gajapati SP on March 7.

One of them, Prakash Dalbehera, had confessed before the police that he was also present at the spot with the OMP group during the Bhaliaguda encounter.

After the incident, he had parted ways with the OMP as he saw that at the time of encounter, Sabyasachi and top leaders of the group escaped with modern arms, leaving behind neo-cadres to face the bullets of security forces.

Intelligence reports hinted that the OMP was faced with a dearth of arms, ammunition and cadres. Sabyasachi, the reports said, came to this area on the Ganjam-Gajapati district border in November to recruit new cadres.