Why Sabyasachi Panda's arrest is not a 'huge success' for Odisha Police

Bhubaneswar: Odisha's newly appointed Director General of Police (DGP) Sanjeev Marik was understandably ecstatic while briefing newsmen on Friday on the arrest of top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda in the southern town of Berhampur late on Thursday night. After all, Panda had been evading the state police for close to a decade now. So, there was a lot to gloat about for the DGP, who took over just a fortnight ago.

But a hard-nosed look at the firepower and damage potential of Panda in the weeks and months leading up to his arrest makes it clear that it is hardly the 'huge success' for the state police that the DGP would like the world to believe it was.
With barely a handful of associates (intelligence sources say they numbered less than 10) left with him, Panda was a pale shadow of the dreaded Maoist leader that he once was when he was arrested last night.

 Why Sabyasachi Pandas arrest is not a huge success for Odisha Police

File photo of Sabyasachi Panda. Image from ibnlive

His stock, in fact, has steadily gone down ever since his expulsion from the banned CPI (Maoist) for alleged 'anti-party activities' in March 2012. Of the two dozen or so loyal supporters, who sided with him after he was expelled from the CPI (Maoist) and formed his own outfit – Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP) – many have been either killed in police encounter or have surrendered.

On the run from the security forces on the one hand and his erstwhile party colleagues on the other, Sabyasachi moved about in the forests straddling the Ganjam-Kandhamal border, his stronghold, for over two years now for without perpetrating any act of violence. In fact, the last time he hogged the headlines was when he took two Italian tourists hostage in March 2012, shortly after being expelled from the CPI (Maoist). That he released both of them within weeks without Naveen Patnaik conceding any of his substantive demands also spoke volumes about his reduced clout.

Panda may have made a virtue out of a dire necessity by claiming that he had shunned 'pointless' violence. But the fact is he was unable to mount a major attack short as he was not just of men, but also arms. That he dodged the combined might of the CPI (Maoist) and security personnel for so long speaks more about the support he enjoyed in the area than the strength of his outfit, rechristened CPI Marxist Leninist Maoist (LML) earlier this year.

Panda thus was a 'soft target' for the Odisha Police. Secure in the knowledge that he was now a spent force, it went after him with a vengeance, deploying men and material generously in a bid to capture him. He may have been a spent force in the recent past, but no other Maoist leader in Odisha has had the kind of profile that he has. Panda’s arrest thus could be tom-tommed as a 'huge success'.

In going after Sabyasachi, Odisha police was merely clutching at straws, unable as it was to make much of a headway in combating the CPI (Maoist) in its turf in Malkangiri, Koraput and the adjoining districts. Sabyasachi's arrest thus would make no material difference to the anti-Maoist operations of the state police.

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Updated Date: Jul 18, 2014 19:50:44 IST