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Panda calls for shutdown

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 18: Top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda today called for an Odisha Bandh on November 20 to protest against the killing of five of his associates in the Baliaguda encounter.

An audiotape, released by the rebel leader, described the November 14 encounter within Mohana police limits, as “planned genocide”. Panda, who following his expulsion from the CPI (Maoist) for anti-organisation activities floated the Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP) in August, also claimed that contrary to the police claim his group had not sustained any major damage in the encounter.

On the other hand, security forces comprising CRPF, Special Operations Group (SOG) and District Voluntary Force (DVF) jawans, continued their search operation in the border forests of Kandhmal and Gajpati district to corner the rebel leader. A Pawan Hans helicopter is assisting the forces in the operation, which is being monitored by DIG (southern range), R.K. Sharma and Ganjam SP Ashish Singh.

State director general of police Prakash Mishra said that operation against the Maoist leader would continue till it reaches its logical end.

Although Panda escaped the police dragnet several times, higher-ups in the department are hopeful of catching him this time.

“We believe he was injured in the Baliaguda encounter and will find moving through the forests difficult. Besides, he is running short of men and material. It is only a matter of time before he either gives up or is arrested,” said a senior officer.

Panda’s wife, Subhashree alias Mili, and some Gandhian leaders have been trying to put pressure on the leader to lay down arms and return to the mainstream. But they want it on honourable terms with the co-operation of the government. Mili had launched a tirade against the police in the wake of Baliaguda encounter accusing them of going after her husband without any provocation.