October 7, 2008 11:59:55 pm
A mathematics graduate from a college in the temple town of Puri, this scrawny and fair man, with a height of 5 feet 6 inches and sporting a beard, betrays no signs that mark him the most wanted man in Orissa. But ask senior police officials and they will detail how Sabyasachi Panda planned and executed two attacks on the police in the last two years. The police have lodged 20 cases of murder, extortion and robbery against him.
Sabyasachi Panda, 41, was born to Ramesh Panda, a freedom fighter-turned CPM leader-turned BJD leader from Ranapur area of Nayagarh district. The most wanted Naxalite in the state did not take the political route, as he wanted to be a ‘revolutionary’. He joined the Naxalite movement in 1991, revived it in 1996 and gave a call for a full-fledged armed struggle against the establishment. He formed the Kui Lewang Sangha (Kui Youth Association), which became a front organisation for the Andhra Pradesh-based People’s War Group (PWG). Next, he formed the Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA).
The Naxal violence started in Orissa in 2001 when PWG formed Andhra Orissa Border Special Zone Committee with Panda as its chief for Orissa. Later, he was appointed as secretary of Basdhara Division, functioning in the northern and central districts of Orissa.
Panda scripted a sensational attack wherein over 80 armed Naxalites attacked a sub-jail and a police station in R Udayagiri town of Gajapati district on March 24, 2006. The rebels freed the prisoners, killed two policemen, and took hostage officer-in-charge of the local police station, Ranjan Kumar Mallick, and jailor Rabinarayan Sethi before releasing them a few days later.
The high point in his rebel career came in February this year when he planned and reportedly executed the attack on the police armoury in Nayagarh district, which claimed 18 lives. The Nayagarh attack gave the rebels truckloads of weapons such as AK-47s, SLRs, INSAS rifles and hand grenades.
Intelligence officials say his area of operation is Darngibadi, Brahmanigaon, Kotagarh and Raikia area of Kandhamal district, but they have failed to nab him as Panda knows the terrain well. With the Orissa police failing to arrest him, his cult status has only grown. People in his district recount how Panda slips in and slips out of the area unnoticed. BJD MP from Jajpur, Mohan Jena, who in 2004 met Panda as government interlocutor for peace talks with Naxals said Panda was a “nice person”. “He is not a person of vote-bank politics. His agitation is solely based on the development of poor sections of the society,” Jena once told this correspondent. He even claimed to have been floored over a poem titled ‘Laxmi’, written by Panda.
Panda’s family members say that they have not met him for more than 15 years.
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