Odisha’s top Maoist leader Panda may give up arms

Odisha’s top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, who floated his own outfit recently after being expelled by the CPI (Maoist) for rebellion, may give up arms soon.

Highly placed sources said that Panda, who has both police and his rivals within the Maoist organisation on his trail, has few options left. However, he is looking for a face saver which would make his surrender look like courting martyrdom.

The well wishers of Panda, the younger son of a former CPI (M) MLA, are already working hard to prepare the ground for his surrender. Recently nine prominent civil society members issued a joint appeal asking him to give up the path of violence and join the mainstream.

“Once you along with your cadres make up your mind to give up violence, we will take up with the government the cause of the downtrodden for which you have been fighting,” said the joint appeal from Annapurna Maharana, Sumitra Choudhury, Rabi Ray, Md Baji, Ratan Das, Bhabani Charan Patnaik, Krushna Mohanty, Bhagaban Prakash and Radhamohan – all well known Gandhians.

Significantly, these activists described Panda as fighting for the interest of the poor “selflessly” and “without compromise” for years leading a life full of hardships in the jungles. “We may have different views about the path you have chosen to continue this battle for the poor, but we have no doubt in our minds about your sincerity and feeling,” the appeal said calling upon Panda to join hands with those who were fighting for the same goals in a non-violent manner.

“As a fighter endangering your lives you have made impact on many, but there are still many others who are fighting for the poor keeping themselves away from the path of violence. It is time we strengthened such a mass movement,” the appeal said citing examples of Marx, Mao and Gandhi.

They urged Sabyasachi to begin a “second mass movement” by following the ideals of Gandhi, Vinobha, Jayaprakash, Lohia and Ambedkar by giving up violence. Significantly, the appeal followed a stepped up security drive in the forests of Ganjam, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts to capture Panda.

Police believe that Panda, who fell out with the top CPI (Maoist) leadership following his unilateral act of kidnapping two Italians in March this year, has hardly 10 men left with him and he is also running short of arms and ammunition. The CRPF and the state police, which have thrown a ring around his forest hide-outs, have also cut off his supply lines. Hence Panda seems desperate to surrender but he is looking for an honourable deal from the government.

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