Top Maoist in Odisha hints at giving up arms

Panda will surrender if govt withdraws cases against him: Wife

Odisha’s political and police circles are agog with intense speculation that Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, responsible for the kidnapping of two Italians in Kandhamal district a couple of months ago, is all set to give up arms and surrender before authorities very soon.

The speculation gained currency following a statement by Panda’s wife Subhashree during an interview to a local TV news channel here on Thursday. She claimed her husband will give up arms if the state government assures him that all the criminal cases pending against him will be withdrawn.

“He may consider to surrender and join the mainstream if the state government assures him that all the cases pending against him will be withdrawn and he will be allowed to lead a normal life,” she said.

Subhashree’s latest statement, however, came as a big surprise to many as she had earlier made it clear that Sabyasachi would not give up arms under any circumstances. “He would prefer to die in an encounter rather than surrendering to the police,” she had said.

The change in her attitude and statements, observers believe, could be because of her husband’s reported differences with senior Maoist leaders, particularly from the neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh states, and his reported exit from the left wing extremist organisation’s all powerful central committee.

Sabyasachi, who is believed to be still heading the CPI(Maoists) Odisha state committee, had reportedly executed the kidnapping of the two Italians without the approval of the party’s central committee. The kidnapping had angered many senior party leaders in the Naxal organisation.

Highly placed sources in the state home department here said, it will be an uphill task for the Odisha government to fulfill Subhashree’s wish and withdraw the criminal cases pending against her husband as they are very serious in nature.

Panda has been one of the principal accused in the 2008 murder of religious leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal which had triggered the Hindu-Christian communal violence in the backward district.

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