Odisha Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda gets life sentence

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Odisha Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda gets life sentence for ‘waging war against state’

Odisha Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda alias Sunil, who allegedly masterminded the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in 2008, was sentenced to life on Saturday for waging war against the state. This is the first time the former Maoist leader has been sentenced by a court.

Odisha Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda

Panda was sentenced to life by a sessions court in Berhampur town in connection with a case in 2014 when police arrested him from the Badabazar area. The police had seized a US-made Ruger revolver, around 800 grams of gold jewellery, 10 cell phones, and scores of mobile SIM cards, Rs 2 lakh, two external hard drives, several pen-drives and a laptop from him. Berhampur additional district judge – II, Sanjay Sahu pronounced Panda guilty under Sections 121 of the IPC for attempting to wage war against the state.

Panda, who has been behind bars since his arrest in July 2014 is accused in 135 cases. So far he has been acquitted in 52 cases. His lawyer Dipak Patnaik said he would challenge the order of the sessions court.

Panda, who was secretary of Orissa State Organising Committee of Maoists, joined the rebels in 1991. In 2001, the erstwhile People’s War Group formed the Andhra Orissa Border Special Zone Committee putting Panda as its head for Orissa. He earned notoriety in February 2008, when he planned and reportedly executed the attack on a police armoury in Nayagarh district which claimed 18 lives. The Nayagarh attack gave the rebels the much-needed firepower as the Maoists carted away truckloads of AK-47, SLRs, INSAS rifles and hand grenades from the police armoury.

In August 2008, he masterminded the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and 5 of his accomplices which led to a Hindu-Christian riot in Kandhamal district. More than 40 people were killed in the riot. In March 2012, he abducted two Italian tourists from the forests of Ganjam-Kandhamal districts and kept them hostage for 29 days. The hostage drama ended with the release of his wife Mili Panda, who was arrested for acting as Maoist courier.

Last month, Mili Panda contested as a Congress candidate from the Ranpur assembly constituency in Nayagarh district of Odisha.

-May 18, 2019