Chhattisgarh: Maoists abduct wife, son and eight kin of ‘surrendered’ rebel Podiyam Panda
Podiyam Panda is a former sarpanch of Chintagufa in Maoist hotbed Bastar and his wife is the present sarpanch of the village.india Updated: Sep 20, 2017 21:28 IST
Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region have abducted the wife, son and eight other relatives of a former colleague, Podiyam Panda, who is now under police protection.
Police claimed Maoists picked up Panda’s wife, Muye, their son, Kosa, and their relatives from Chintagufa village in Sukma district, about 390km km south of state capital Raipur, on September 16.
Panda is a former sarpanch of Chintagufa in Maoist hotbed Bastar and his wife is the present sarpanch of the village.
Police announced Panda’s “surrender” in May and it was seen as a huge blow to the Maoists. According to the police, Panda is accused of involvement in several Maoist attacks in Sukma.
His family, however, had a different story of his “surrender”. They claimed police picked him following a Maoist ambush at Burkapal (in Sukma) in April in which 24 CRPF troopers were killed.
According to Panda’s family, police took him away on May 3. Police, however, claimed Panda surrendered on May 9 and presented him before the media on May 17.
“Podiyam’s family was abducted to pressure him as his surrender was a major setback to the Maoists of Bastar,” Sukma police stated in a release on Wednesday. “Podiyam was close to top Maoist leaders like Rammanna and Hidma... when they found that Podiyam and his family members were living a normal life, they abducted his family members,” the release added.
Police appealed to rights activists, public representatives and media to pitch in for the safe return of Panda’s family members.
DM Awasthi, Chhattisgarh’s special director general of police (Anti-Naxal Operations), told HT, “The Maoists have abducted the poor tribal family. This is inhuman and shameful. We believe that human rights activists should intervene in this matter.”
What provoked the Maoists
Maoists went after Panda’s family because police paraded him at a people’s outreach programme they conducted in Chintagufa on August 24, according to multiple ground sources in Bastar.
“Maoists had warned villagers against turning up for the police programme, but Panda has immense clout in his area and more than 1,000 people came,” said a source who was at the event.
“Panda stood next to Sukma superintendent of police Abhishek Meena as he urged villagers at the event not to support Maoists,” the source added.
“The day they were picked up, Maoists simply ‘called’ them to come,” said the source.
Why police want rights activists involved
Several rights activists back Panda despite allegations against him. Police suspect his involvement in killings by Maoists, including the massacre of 76 security personnel at Tadmetla (then in Dantewada district) in 2010.
Rights activists, however, insist Panda has played a key role in protecting the rights of the people in Chintagufa and in adjoining villages.