Bhubaneswar, Feb. 28: Security forces are set to step up their operation against elusive Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda following information that the rebel chief is carrying a bullet injury.
Sabyasachi, who split from the CPI(Maoist) last year to form his own group called the Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP), was injured during an encounter with police in the Merikote reserve forests of Ganjam about a fortnight ago.
Three women cadres of the OMP today revealed this during police interrogation. The trio are Nikita alias Minita Majhi, 30, Dandingi Anita alias Mila, 28, and Susanti alias Sukanti Majhi, 20, who carried cash rewards on their heads, was arrested during a police operation in the Mukhi forest near Dimbripankal in Gajpati district last night.
The police also seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition, including an AK-47 rifle, four SLR rifles, two Insas rifles, one 9 mm Pistol, 354 rounds of AK 47 cartridges and 203 rounds of SLR ammunition.
The DIG of police (southern range), Amitabh Thakur, said a tiffin bomb and cash worth Rs 10.50 lakh were also recovered from the area following a tip-off from the arrested rebels. While Nikita carried a reward of Rs 3 lakh, Susanti and D. Anita had a price of Rs 50,000 each on their heads.
The rebels said Sabyasachi had been hit by a bullet in his right thigh during the police encounter in the Merikote forests near Salimagochha in Ganjam district on February 15.
His associates dispersed in smaller groups in the wake of the incident to avoid arrest by the security forces, which have been combing the forests of Ganjam and Gajapati in the hope of netting the ailing rebel leader, who is in his forties.
Sabyasachi is facing over 30 charges of murder, including the killing of VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati and his four disciples at Jalapeta ashram in August 2008. He shot into international notoriety in 2012 when his group kidnapped the Italian duo of Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo from the forests of Kandhamal district.
However, his expulsion from the CPI(Maoist) last year is said to have dealt a crippling blow to his group, which once called the shots in the rebel bastions of Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal and Rayagada.
On December 17 last year, the police arrested two of his supporters, who acted as couriers for the OMP, in Ganjam district. One of them, Pabitra Mohan Pradhan, a native of Nayagarh district to which Sabyasachi belongs, was allegedly carrying a letter for the rebel chief’s wife Subhashree alias Milli at the time of his arrest.
Two other aides of Sabyasachi were apprehended earlier by Ganjam police while carrying medicines and cash for him. The consignment had allegedly been sent by Milli, who had met the state police chief Prakash Mishra in April last year sparking off speculation about his possible surrender. Such hopes, however, have remained elusive so far.