Sabyasachi Panda, Orissa’s most-wanted Maoist leader and main accused in the murder case of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati, was arrested on Thursday night by police in Berhampur town after a series of slip-ups by cops over last few years.
Panda, who in August 2012 was expelled from CPI (Maoist) for openly criticising its general secretary Mupala Laxmana Rao alias Ganapathy as “autocratic” and “dictotarial” and later floated his own outfit, was arrested from a person’s house in busy Badabazar area of Berhampur, said Orissa DGP Sanjeev Marik. “It was an intelligence-based operation,” the DGP told The Indian Express without revealing much about the operation, adding that Panda was being interrogated.
Panda had a reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head, and in the last few years, several of his associates were either killed, arrested or deserted after his expulsion from CPI(Maoist). The police too brought down the reward money.
Panda, who reportedly was hurt in an encounter with Ganjam police in February this year, had formed a new Maoist front named Orissa Maovadi Party aftr his expulsion from CPI(Maoist). Last month, he changed his party’s name to CPI (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). According to police records, over 100 cases, including half a dozen high profile attacks, were registered against him since 1999, when he first came on police radar after attacking a temporary police outpost in Rayagada district. He had looted all material kept in the camp including VHF sets.
He earned more notoriety in March 24, 2006, when over 80 armed rebels attacked a sub-jail and a police station in R Udayagiri town of Gajapati district and freed its prisoners while killing two policemen. The rebels also took hostage officer-in-charge of the local police station and jailor before releasing them a few days later. The attack was scripted by Panda.
The second high point in his rebel career came in February 2008 when he planned and reportedly executed the attack on police armoury in Nayagarh district which claimed 18 lives. The Nayagarh attack gave the rebels truckloads of modern weapons such as AK-47, SLRs, INSAS rifles and hand grenades.
In August 2008, he masterminded the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and five of his accomplices which led to a Hindu-Christian riot in Kandhamal district. More than 40 persons were killed in the riot. In March 2012, he abducted two Italian tourists from the jungles of Ganjam-Kandhamal districts and kept them hostage for 29 days. The hostage drama ended with the release of his wife Mili Panda, who was arrested for acting as Maoist courier.
Panda, who was secretary of Orissa State Organising Committee of Maoists till the riots, was demoted in the party hierarchy as the riots led to widespread condemnation of the Naxals. Before he was expelled in August 2012 continued…
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