Are the banned Maoists, who have struck terror at several places in Orissa, divided in the aftermath of the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati?
This has been the topic of debate in police and political circles after an outfit, identifying itself as 'M2' came out in support of Hindus and tribals after the CPI (Maoist) claimed responsibility for the killing of the VHP leader and four of his associates in Kandhamal on August 23, last year.
While a Maoist leader, through an audio release to media, claimed the outfit in Orissa remained undivided, neither the state government nor the police had any information about any split among left wing extremist ranks.
"Though some posters and leaflets appeared in the name of M2, the government is yet to confirm whether it is a splinter group of the original outfit or a new organisation," Home seceretary Aditya Padhi told PTI adding the intelligence wing had been examining the development.
While no one in the administration or police had any clue about M2 and its leaders, the mysterious body had already made its presence felt by enforcing a bandh in three districts on January 3.
The bandh called by the organisation was unique as it evoked spontaneous response in violence-ravaged Kandhamal and was partial in two other adjoining districts, Gajapati and Ganjam.
"It was a successful bandh organised through posters and leaflets as no activist was seen picketing on streets to enforce the shutdown," a senior police officer said.
Officials in the intelligence wing, who have been keeping a close watch on Maoist activities in Orissa, however, said that there were similarities between the style of functioning of CPI (Maoist) and the newly formed outfit.
Both undertook campaigns through posters, wall writings and messages on trees as the means of communicating with the people, an integillence expert said.
While the CPI (Maoist) was affiliated to the PLGA (Peoples' Liberation Guerrilla Army), the new outfit is supposed to have formed a separate ideological platform in the name of IDGA (Ideological Democratic Guerrilla Army).
The CPI (Maoist) had claimed responsibility for Laxmanananda's killing. But the new outfit, through its banners and posters, has pledged to protect Hindus and tribals.
It gives a strong indication that a small fraction of Maoists might have created a new outfit because of the change of stand by top leaders, a senior government official said.
"A top Maoist leader had earlier told media that they work for the protection of minority Christians and, therefore killed Saraswati", the official said adding some within the cadre might not have supported the Maoists working on religious line.
Generally, Maoists across the country never are known to take any religious line. "This could be the first instance of Maoists eliminating a religious leader and working on religious lines," he said.