Bhubaneswar: Sabyasachi Panda, the man allegedly behind the kidnapping of the two Italians, has ruled the jungles of Odisha for two decades. But police have just one photograph of the Maoist leader. It was on his instructions that the two Italian trekkers were allegedly abducted last week.
A science graduate, Panda, joined the Naxalite movement in 1991. He is the one who was responsible for the killing of RSS leader Swami Laxmannanda Saraswati, which triggered the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal. He led the attack on the Nayagarh armoury, which killed 11 cops 2008.
Panda's father was a CPM MLA, who later joined the Biju Janata Dal. His brother is also a BJD member. Many allege that Panda nurses his own political ambitions and is secretly in touch with top BJD leaders, a charge which the party refutes.
BJD MLA Debashish Samantaray said, "His family might be having a relationship with the BJD but his ideology is that of Left extremism."
Police sources told CNN-IBN that Panda may have ordered the kidnappings to regain eroding support from tribals by alleging that the foreigners were taking objectionable photos. He also knows kidnapping foreigners would put international pressure on the Odisha government to suspend anti-Naxal operations, which have hit the Maoists hard.
Panda also wants to free his wife Subhashee who is in jail for supporting Maoist activities.
Sources in the Odisha government have told CNN-IBN that it would not be possible for the state government to agree to all the demands made by the Maoists, especially the release of hardcore Naxal leaders. However, with mounting pressure from the Ministry of External Affairs, Italian embassy and also the Opposition from the Odisha Assembly, it seems Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would have to take a tough decision on this in the days ahead.