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Cops release Panda sketch

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 16: Security forces today stepped up Operation Sabyasachi, combing the forests of Ganjam, Kandhamal and Rayagada districts for the Maoist leader, who gave them the slip two days ago.

The cops also released sketches of six of his associates and announced rewards for information on them. Sources said posters carrying the sketches of Aruna, Krishna, Andrew Majhi, Pramod Majhi, Pratap Nayak and Prami Majhi, most of them hailing from Ganjam and Kandhamal, were seen at a few of the villages in these districts.

The posters promised rewards for any information on the six rebels, who have been involved in several operations with Sabyasachi Panda, who, following his expulsion from the CPI (Maoist), has floated the Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP). The police have assured to keep the identity of the informers secret.

Simultaneously, additional companies of the CRPF and the Special Operations Group were pressed into the search operation to nab Panda, who, since escaping unhurt in the encounter with the security forces in Baliaguda forests on Wednesday, is believed to be hiding in the tribal-dominated villages on the Rayagada-Kandhamal border. The police hope that the text message reportedly sent by the rebel leader to his wife, Subhashree alias Mili Panda, could also be of help in locating his whereabouts.

“We are closing in on him. Even he realises that just a few options are left with them. Now, it is up to him to decide whether to give in or continue fighting,” said a senior police officer involved in the operation.

The comment assumes significance in view of the hectic efforts being made by Mili and Gandhians such as Radhamohan and Bhabani Patnaik to work out a solution for the rebel leader’s honourable return to the social mainstream. Both Mili and the two Gandhians have been critical of the coercive operation against the former state organising secretary of the CPI (Maoist), but senior police officials maintain that the drive to arrest the rebel chief cannot be halted unless he surrenders.

Launching a blistering attack against the government, Mili yesterday said she would seek an appointment with director-general of police Prakash Mishra to discuss the fate of her husband. The two Gandhians are also reported to have expressed their willingness to take up the issue with Mishra.

In another development, the stepped-up operation today resulted in the surrender of Sumitra Mallick, 20, a cadre of Ghumsar division of the Maoists, before the Ganjam superintendent of police Ashish Singh. Sumitra, who hails from Gilima village in the Badagada police station area, had worked under Panda for more than two years.

“She was involved in an encounter at Kerubadi in Kandhamal district under the leadership of Panda. We will rehabilitate her in accordance with the surrender scheme for the Maoists,” said Singh.

Sumitra said she had left the organisation following exploitation and torture in the camps by senior leaders, including Panda.

She said many other Maoists were desperate to quit the organisation, but Panda and his henchmen were preventing them.

In yet another incident, a Class-IV government employee at Bissamcuttack in Rayagada had a narrow escape when a bundle of gelatine sticks, concealed in the motorcycle he was driving, exploded. Sources said the motorcycle belonged to the block development officer of the area, but there was no confirmation whether the Maoists were behind the blast. The police have also recovered around 52kg of gelatine sticks and other explosive material from Narayanpatna and Kotgarh in Koraput district in the past 24 hours.