In a shocking revelation, Podiyam Panda, a Naxal who surrendered to the police in Chhattisgarh, has allegedly claimed that he served as a “link” between Naxals and Delhi-based communist ideologues.
Panda allegedly named Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar and rights activist Bela Bhatia among others he drove on a motorbike into the Sukma forests to meet Naxal commanders.
Some of those commanders were involved in the deadly ambush that led to the martyrdom of 25 CRPF personnel on April 24.
Panda, reportedly, made the accusation at a press conference in Raipur. He is the former sarpanch (village head) of Bastar’s Chintagufa village – where the April 24 attack took place.
The surrendered Naxal leader is a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and was underground for 20 years.
The police accuses him of involvement in the April 24 Sukma ambush as well as the 2010 Tedmetla massacre.
The Tedmetla massacre, also known as the April 2010 Dantewada Maoist attack, left 76 CRPF personnel martyred. Eight naxal terrorists were also killed. The attack remains the deadliest ever in Naxal history.
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) May 17, 2017
But Panda’s wife claims that the security forces took him captive forcibly on May 3. A habeas corpus has been filed in the Chhattisgarh High Court.
The police says that Panda surrendered on May 9 but it was kept a secret due to security reasons. It was because of Panda’s information that the security forces were able to apprehend eight Naxal terrorists on Tuesday.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) April 24, 2017
Nandini Sundar claims that Panda’s statement has been obtained through coercion and is false.
She told TOI, “It’s a false and coerced confession made in police custody.”
In 2016, Sundar was named in an FIR on charges of murder of a tribal Shamnath Baghel, who was killed by Naxals in his village in Bastar.
Before his death, Baghel had filed a police complaint against Sundar and others accusing them of inciting tribals to join Naxal movement and oppose the government.
Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) S.R.P. Kalluri had told the press that villagers accused Sundar and others of threatening them not to oppose the Naxals. The IG had said that Sundar travelled under a fake name when she went to the village.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), however, pulled up the Chhattisgarh police and sought an explanation from them for accusing Sundar calling the action “coloured by malafide, hostility and abuse of power”.
It should also be noted that it was Sundar’s writ petition in the Supreme Court which made unconstitutional the recruitment of tribal youth as operatives of the Koya Commando force or Salwa Judum or any civilian force in a war against Naxals.