Surrendered Maoist denies police pressure, villagers protest against ‘urban naxals’

A few days back we had reported how a surrendered Maoist named Podiyam Panda had claimed that he used to be a link between the top Maoist leadership and some ‘eminent’ citizens cum activists. Panda had alleged that he used to drive activists from Delhi, including Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar and prominent ‘activist’ Bela Bhatia, deep into the forest of Sukma to meet top Maoist leaders.

Incidentally Times of India which had initially reported the incident had changed its headline from, “Maoist nails DU Professor, top Activist” to “Maoist confession forced, says DU professor” within a matter of hours.

Further reports then started claiming that the family members of Panda had come out to claim that his surrender was under possible duress and that he was never a Maoist. They claimed that he had been “picked by the police” on 3rd May and that when they had tried to meet Panda in jail on 10th May, the cops only took food and clothes they had carried for Panda but didn’t allow them to meet him.

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The family then reportedly filed a habeus corpus petition in Bilaspur High Court on 12th May in this regard and after that they claimed that the cops had forced Panda to call them up and state that he had voulntarily agreed to surrender and that they need to withdraw their case.

This petition prompted the High Court to ask the Bastar police to produce him in front of the court on Monday, even though the cops insisted that he was free to appear in the court anytime. The High Court also remarked that:

Let him say in front of the court that he wasn’t coerced to surrender

The authorities also argued that he was not being kept away from his wife and claimed that the state had sought her help in convincing Panda to surrender.

As per reports, Panda had given a statement to the media, claiming that he had asked his wife to return to her village but she expressed her inability as there were “women lawyers who weren’t allowing her to go”.

Panda was finally brought in front of the court on Monday, where he put the whole “victim narrative” to rest. As told to the court by Panda, he had surrendered voluntarily and was under no pressure from the police. The report also claimed that Panda told the court that he was not assaulted by the police and that the lawyers, activists of the CPI had forced his wife to file the case.

Some reports also claimed that in the court Panda and his wife were allowed to privately converse with each other for 15 min but the wife still maintained in a statement to the media that Panda was doing everything under police pressure.

Incidentally the wife had also claimed that her husband had helped the police in the past. This, if fact, goes against her theory that Panda had not surrendered voluntarily. Maoists in the past have been notorious in eliminating police informants. So Panda would rather surrender and feel safe among the police, which he incidentally is reported to have said.

Meanwhile local residents in the Naxal affected areas have also started speaking up. A dharna-protest was organised by victims of Naxalism in Konta, Bastar, where villagers protested against likes of Nalini Sundar, Bela Bhatia and other human rights activists and lawyers. It should be noted that the lawyer of Podiyam Panda’s wife is also an activist.


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