Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s most wanted Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda was arrested yesterday in the state’s Ganjam district.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik congratulated police and reiterated his appeal to the rebels to shun violence.
“Sabyasachi Panda was involved in the Nayagarh and R Udayagiri armoury lootings, killing Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, abduction of two Italians and in many other cases, leading to the killing of 25 security personnel and 34 civilians,” Patnaik told reporters.
Panda was wanted in more than 50 cases, including the murder of Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram in Kandhamal district in 2008 that triggered communal violence in the region.
At least 38 people were killed and over 25,000 Christians were forced to flee after their homes were attacked by mobs, who accused Christians of killing Saraswati, although police blamed the Maoists for the ashram killings.
Police raided a Maoist hideout on the basis of intelligence inputs and nabbed Panda from Berhampur town, 179km from state capital Bhubaneswar, Director General of Police Sanjeev Marik said.
“It was an intelligence-based operation under Amitabha Thakur, Deputy Inspector General of Police in Berhampur. There was a raid at a specific area and he was arrested,” Marik added.
The Italians were kidnapped by Panda’s group in Kandhamal district in 2012 and released days after the government promised to fulfil his demands.
The state government had announced a reward of Rs5 lakh on him. Panda continued activities by forming his group after the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist expelled him about two years ago.