Four days after Odisha police claimed to kill five Maoists loyal to rebel leader Sabyasachi Panda, the latter on Sunday released an audio tape saying the police had murdered innocent civilians.
“The police killed ordinary villagers and then dressed the bodies with Maoist uniforms,” said Panda, who formed his own outfit Odisha Maoist Party after being expelled by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in August for criticising CPI (Maoist)’s supreme commander M Laxmana Rao as “autocratic” and “dictatorial”. He added that contrary to police claims he and his comrades were not injured and quite safe. Social activist Dandapani Mohanty, one of the two mediators who negotiated release of two Italian citizens Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo who had been abducted by Maoists led by Panda in March, corroborated the rebel leader’s claim.
“The so-called encounter is nothing but a cold blooded murder which deserves an inquiry by a sitting high court judge and the state government should pay a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the families of each of the dead,” Mohanty told the Hindustan Times. Mohanty said those killed were not Maoists, rather some of them were quite active in overground democratic activities, with one of them being a former samiti member in Kandhamal district.
The encounter, which came as a surprise to people who had started a peace process with the state government to pave way for Panda’s surrender, took place in the morning on Wednesday in a forest under Mohana police station area of Gajapati district, about 200 km southwest of Bhubaneswar. Police said though they killed the five rebels, Panda managed to escape with injuries. Since then, more than 300 state and central forces personnel have been extensively combing the forest areas of Gajapati and adjoining Gajam and Kandhamal districts. “We will get results soon,” Odisha police director general Prakash Mishra told reporters.