Mystery shrouds top maoist's surrender

Mystery shrouds top maoist's surrender

Though Azad belongs to a village in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh he had been serving as the second in command of the naxal operations in Orissa for more than a decade now. The crime branch of the Orissa police who have taken Azad to their custody after he surrendered before the AP police last month, consider him to be a ‘big catch’ as he was involved in several high profile naxal violence in Orissa. They include the 2008 killing of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati in Kandhamal.

He was also directly involved in another 2008 daring naxal operation in Nayagarh in  which as many as 17 policemen were killed after a truckload of armed maoists raided several police installations in the coastal town including a police training centre.

A boost to police
Azad’s statement has given a big boost to the crime branch of the Orissa police which had  insisted that it was the naxals who had planned and executed the swami’s murder. In their chargesheet submitted before the court, apart from Azad, they had named other top maoist leaders including Sabyasachi Panda.

On his decision to say goodbye to arms and quit the naxal movement after remaining a high profile leader of the maoist for nearly two decades, Azad has said that a ‘mistake’ committed during a landmine blast that ripped apart an ambulance carrying five innocent villagers including a patient in Kandhamal last year had changed his heart and prompted him to surrender before the police. These words, however, have no takers, especially among the authorities in Orissa.

Azad’s surrender before the police was preceded by high drama. Just a few days prior to it, the Bhubaneswar police had arrested Azad’s wife from a city slum. The very next day, top maoist leaders in Orissa charged the state police of arresting their senior colleague and keeping him at a secret hideout.

A section of the local newspapers quoting sources in the maoists’ camp reported that the top naxal leader was negotiating with the AP police for surrender after differences cropped up between him and other maoist heavyweights over distribution of funds. The surrender was announced two days later. But mysteriously, Azad was seen roaming free in his village in Srikakulam giving interviews to TV news channels in Orissa. It immediately triggered a debate in the state as to how the AP police set free such a high profile maoist just days after his surrender when he was wanted in several important naxal related crimes in a neighbouring state.

However, just two days later, the Orissa crime branch sleuths produced Azad in a court in Nayagarh in connection with the 2008 case. They claimed that Azad was arrested in Bhubaneswar, which was denied by his family members as well as the local police. The contradictory statements issued by the crime branch and the Bhubaneswar police turned out to be a major embarrassment for top brass of the state home department.

Moist leaders operating in Orissa have acknowledged that Azad’s decision to surrender has inflicted a major blow to the naxal movement in the state. Some of them have also stated that he would have to pay a heavy price for his ‘betrayal’ which has prompted the state home department to tighten security around the prison where Azad is lodged.

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