Ex-sarpanch named in 100 FIRs detained
07 MAY 2017 23:27 IST
Named in every maoist attack in Dornapal-Jagargunda stretch
Raipur: A former sarpanch of Chintagufa village in Sukma district, who has more than 100 cases against him, has been taken into custody.
Pudium Panda, a former CPI member, was picked up in the forest near Minapa village, a week ago. According to police sources, he was first interrogated at Chintagufa police station and then taken to Sukma in a secretive way. His wife, who is the current sarpanch of Chintagufa, was also flown to Sukma by a chopper to identify him.
Mr. Panda was named in almost every incident of maoist attack on security forces in the Dornapal-Jagargunda stretch in the last eight years, including the Tadmetla attack in which 76 CRPF men were killed in 2010.
‘Never carried weapon’
However, communist leader and former Sukma MLA Manish Kunjam claimed that Mr. Panda never carried any weapon and he was not involved in any violent incident.
“They have not disclosed his arrest and we are afraid that he may be booked in many more cases. He was a sarpanch during Salwa Judum days and was associated with our party. In 2007, a controversial police officer launched a campaign against my party men in Bastar and many of my associates were jailed. Mr. Panda was also named in cases, including that of the Tadmetla massacre. He was forced to leave his village for his and his family’s safety, and he was roaming in the forest to save his life. He was afraid that if the police found him, he would be booked for offences which he never committed,” Mr. Kunjam, who is also the president of Adivasi Mahasabha, told The Hindu.
Mr. Panda had reportedly mediated to secure the release of many policemen and government servants, including former Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon in 2012, who were abducted by maoists.
Mr. Kunjam denied that Mr. Panda was a maoist commander. “He was not involved in any maoist incident. He never carried a gun. Even when he was arrested, he was riding his bike. He was connected with former Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar. He used to talk to senior politicians and police officers on phone. How and why would a person talk to senior politicians and police officers if he was a maoist?”
A political leader from Sukma, who didn’t want to be named, said it is difficult to say Mr. Panda was not in touch with maoists. “We cannot say that because if you are living in the forest, you are bound to come into contact with maoists.”
During a meeting with this reporter in 2014 in south Sukma forest, Mr. Panda had claimed that he was being targeted for his ‘active opposition’ to Salwa Judum.
Believes in development
One of his close associates had said that Mr. Panda advocated for roads and electricity in interior villages. He had even managed to bring some development projects in the area, but maoist leader Paparao had damaged the roads and electric polls.
When asked about the reports of Mr. Panda’s arrest, P. Sundar Raj, Deputy Inspector General of Dantewada range, said, “Not arrested so far.”