He was once a darling of the CPI (Maoist) leadership. From his bastion in the Kandhamal forests of Odisha, top Maoist commander Sabyasachi Panda planned and executed many daring operations for his party. But two years after being forsaken by the Maoist leadership, 45-year-old Panda is trapped now somewhere along the Ganjam-Kandhamal border with a bullet injury in the thigh. The police are closing in on his hideout.
“We are very close to him and we will get him very soon,” Ganjam district police chief Ashish Singh said.
Panda is believed to have been injured in an encounter with the police on February 15. While he took one bullet in the thigh, another shattered his laptop. This has been revealed to the police by his bodyguard Nikita, who was arrested with two other women rebels on the night of February 28.
One of Panda’s close associates told The Hindu that he was trapped with only three rebels, one a woman. Other twenty-four associates have either been killed in police action or arrested. The four, the associate believed, had no food left. “They are in possession of very few weapons and hardly any cash,” he said. There are indications that in the past two weeks, Panda has been desperate to secure an exit for himself.
The Orissa police say he was in touch with the Aam Aadmi Party to save his life and secure his “political career.” However, one of the executive members of the AAP, who the police believe has been in touch with Panda, has denied it. “I have never met Sabyasachi Panda, and he has never contacted me about joining the AAP or anything else,” he said in an e-mail response.
Panda, a Mathematics graduate, was the mastermind of the Nayagarh raid in February 2008, in which 14 policemen were killed and a huge cache of arms and ammunition was looted. He faces over 30 charges of murder, including that of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmanand Saraswati. The killing triggered off the 2008 Kandhamal riots.
In a 16-page letter addressed to the Maoist supreme commander, Ganapathi, in July 2012, Panda accused the party’s Telugu leadership of “superiority complex.” Two days later, the CPI (Maoist) expelled him. Panda then went on to create his own outfit. But in the absence of party support, he got isolated along with a handful of rebels.