Odisha’s top Maoist Sabyasachi Panda arrested in Ganjam district

Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s most wanted Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda was arrested Friday in the state’s Ganjam district. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik congratulated the police and reiterated his appeal to the rebels to shun violence.

“Sabyasachi Panda was involved in a number of cases like the Nayagarh and R. Udayagiri armoury loots, killing Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, abduction of two Italian nationals and in many other cases, leading to the killing of 25 security personnel and 34 civilians,” Patnaik told reporters.

“I congratulate the Odisha Police and particularly the intelligence wing and Berhampur police who participated in this operation,” he said.

“I also appeal to the Maoists to shed violence and join the mainstream,” he added.

Panda was wanted in more than 50 criminal cases, including the murder of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram in Kandhamal district in 2008 that had triggered communal violence in the region.

At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by mobs, who accused Christians of killing Saraswati, although police blamed the Maoists for the ashram killings.

Police raided a Maoist hideout in Ganjam district on the basis of intelligence inputs and nabbed Sabyasachi Panda from Berhampur town, 179 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, Director General of Police Sanjeev Marik told IANS.

“It was an intelligence based operation under Amitabha Thakur, deputy inspector general of police at Berhampur. There was a raid at a specific area and he was arrested,” Marik said.

“More than 40-50 cases are pending against him, among them are Nayagarh armoury loot, killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and the kidnapping of two Italians,” Marik said.

Two Italians were kidnapped by his group in Kandhamal district in 2012. They released the Italians days after the state government promised to fulfil their demands.

Panda led the group that had earlier raided police establishments and government armoury in the district headquarters town of Nayagarh in 2008 and looted thousands of arms. Nine people were killed in this attack, Marik said.

“The state government had announced a reward of Rs.5 lakh on him,” Marik said

Panda continued rebel activities by forming his own group after the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist expelled him about two years ago.