Naxal Violence: A Profile of Sabyasachi Panda

14 May, 2013    ·   3930

Deepak Kumar Nayak analyses recent events to determine whether Panda will surrender in the near future

Deepak Kumar Nayak
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Officer

The CPI (Maoist) organisation has asked Sabyasachi Panda, to return cash, goods, and arms of the parent organisation. Panda, the former Odisha State Organising Committee (OSOC) secretary of the CPI (Maoist) was expelled after being termed a renegade. He and his group have been cornered in the jungles bordering Ganjam, Gajapati, and Kandhamal districts since November 2012. Undoubtedly, this is a setback both for the CPI (Maoist) as well as to Panda himself in recent times. His parting ways with the CPI (Maoist) is a crucial marker, as he had been a source of significant strength for the organisation in Odisha in the past.

What is the future of CPI (Maoist) in Odisha especially after Panda; and most importantly, after the recent mass surrender of the tribal activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), a front organisation of the CPI (Maoist)? Is Panda in a position to strengthen his new outfit, or is he on his way to surrender in the near future?

About Sabyasachi Panda
Sabyasachi Panda, a native of Mayurjhalia village, was the son of the late Ramesh Panda, a three-time CPI (M) MLA from Ranpur in Nayagarh district. His elder brother, Siddharth, is a ruling Biju Janata Dal member. Sabyasachi joined the Naxalite movement in 1991 and revived it in 1996, giving the call for a full-scale armed struggle against the establishment. He formed the Kui Labanga Sangha to spread Maoist activities among the Kui tribals in Odisha’s Kandhamal District, which later became a front organisation for the Andhra Pradesh-based People’s War Group.

He has proved his mettle with a string of deadly attacks in Odisha, including the 2004 attack of Koraput district headquarters and armoury, attacks on police stations in Malkangiri and Rayagada districts between 2001 and 2003. His involvement in the 29 June 2008, as well as an attack on the elite anti-Maoist Greyhounds personnel in the Chitrakonda Reservoir was also highly suspected. The wisdom around Sabyasachi has grown not just because of his reputation of being the most violent mastermind in the Maoists’ organisation, but also because he hailed from a family of freedom fighters. The injustice against poor made him a Naxal. Panda was touted to be the Che Guevara of Odisha as he was "the voice of 57 per cent in Odisha, who have only Rs 12 to spend per day."

Panda’s Differences with the CPI (Maoist)
The rift between the CPI (Maoist) and Panda widened because of his dictatorial and corrupt ways of functioning. The outcome of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati’s assassination in Kandhamal District in August 2008 caught the attention of the central leadership. The arbitrary action, without proper authorisation from the Maoist central leadership, did put Panda in their bad books.

The fallout between Panda and the CPI (Maoist) came in March 2012 when Panda, again acting on his own, took two Italian tourists hostage. Then, he declared a ceasefire with the Odisha government. To embarrass him, the Maoists’ from Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zone Committee (AOBSZC) abducted BJD MLA, Jhinna Hikaka, around the same time. From then on, it has been an open season between Panda and the Maoist leadership.

Later on, he went on to be most vocal about the central leadership, and their alleged ‘deviations ’- ideological, tactical, and cultural; including allegations of an increasing inclination to despotic command, regional bias, ‘cultural hegemony’, intolerance of dissent, and sexual improprieties of the CPI (Maoist). The CPI (Maoist) retaliated with an expulsion order on 10 August 2012, calling him a renegade.

Panda’s Future
After the expulsion from the CPI (Maoist), Panda formed his new outfit Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP). In the meantime, the CPI (Maoist) reportedly formed a new unit, the Chhattisgarh-Odisha Border Committee (COBC), to strengthen their operations across the border areas of the two States, and specifically to counter Panda’s new outfit. Due to sustained anti-Maoist operations, Panda seems to have been cornered, and much of his clout has been dissipated.

Meanwhile, more than 1500 CMAS activists have surrendered since January 2013, giving a clear signal that the activists are not going to support the Maoists in the future. In addition, the parting ways of Panda too has further weakened the CPI (Maoist) in Odisha; though Panda is not in a win-win situation either. Reports of the Maoists managing to form a Red corridor, which will give them easy movement and safe passage through three states - Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand, is worrisome.

Intelligence reports suggested that Panda was trying to restore contacts with past allies in the Raipanka, Mohana, Adaba, R.Udaygiri, Luhagudi, Govindpur, and nearby areas in an effort to rejuvenate his new outfit. Panda clearly said he would continue his armed struggle for the marginalised sections of the society, and not give himself up or join the mainstream. However, speculations over his possible surrender gained momentum when his wife, Subhashree Dash, met the Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra on 17 April 2013. Nevertheless, it will be in Panda’s best interests if he surrenders, especially when he is on the radar of the security forces and his parent organisation.