Subhashree Panda is a free bird. Having spent over two years in jail, the wife of CPI (Maoist) leader Sabyasachi Panda, Subhashree has learnt a lot of things and has become mellower. In an interview with The Telegraph, she spoke on a range of issues, including her take on Maoist revolution, her husband’s life and ideology and the way the last two years have changed her life.
lWhat was your first reaction when you were told that you would be released from jail?
When the judgment was pronounced in court, I could not believe it. I felt the earth slipping off my feet. I thanked God for giving me strength to survive the last two-and-half years in jail.
lIt is said that you were released because of an agreement between the state government and Maoists.
This is not true. The trial had been going on for quite some time. I have been freed because the court found me innocent. Earlier, the high court also quashed cases against me. My faith in the judiciary has been reaffirmed.
lDo you fear a re-arrest?
Yes. I was victimised by the police since I am Sabyasachi’s wife. The crime branch has already issued a warrant against me in connection with the looting of the Nayagarh armoury on February 16, 2008, though I am not involved in it. The police are trying to link me with the case. But God is with me and I am sure the court will give justice to me.
lWould you appeal to your husband to release Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco from captivity?
Yes, I appeal to him through the media to release the Italian national. However, the government should continue the dialogue process with Maoists. It must also withdraw the “most wanted” tags from the Maoists leaders and initiate peace talks with them.
lWould you ask him to surrender?
Never! Why should he surrender? And even if he does, will that weed out poverty and other issues from the state? Will the poor become prosperous and command equality with the rich? If one Sabyasachi surrenders, 10 more like him would emerge. The government should try to solve critical issues affecting the common man.
lWhat is your stand on the government’s ban on Maoist-backed organisations?
The government should lift the ban from all seven Naxalite organisations – Daman Pratirodh Manch, Revolutionary Democratic Front, Chasi Mulia Samiti, Kui Mulia Samiti, Kui Lawenga Sangha, Jan Natya Mandali, Krantikari Kissan Samiti and Bal Sangam. If you ban the organisations where will they go? They will join other organisations and take up arms. The government should create a conducive atmosphere for holding the talks with the Maoists.
lHow did you fall in love with Sabyasachi?
He was a firebrand student leader, a member of the All India Students Federation. I fell in love with his ideology and his resolve to work for the poor and underprivileged. Then we started seeing each other. The marriage proposal came from his side and we tied the knot in 1997.
lIt must be difficult being the wife of someone who is on the run. Do you feel that you have paid a heavy price by marrying him?
Not at all. I am proud of him. He is not just my husband but also my friend, philosopher and guide. I am happy with the way I am living without the luxuries of life. I support his cause of serving the poor and helpless.
lDo you worry that your husband's life is at risk?
I know there is always a threat to his life. The entire police force is after him and he has been labelled as “most wanted”. He is working for the cause of the poor and the downtrodden. You may not accept his style of functioning. But I am aware of the risks. I am always prepared for the worst. I would rather be the wife of a martyr than a coward.
lHave you ever been to the dense forests to meet him?
No. I am an ordinary housewife who has a daughter to look after. Though I have not seen him for several years, the moments I have spent with him after our marriage is enough to last me a lifetime.
lThere have been allegations that you organised funds for the Maoists?
Baseless allegations. There has been an attempt to malign me and disturb my family life and peace of mind.
lWhat are your plans for your daughter?
Nothing specific. I have not seen her for over two years. I only wish that she was educated well. She is in Class VII. Initially, I had to make up stories about what Sabyasachi does. But now, she has begun understanding everything, how her parents are leading a life of struggle. She misses her father a lot.