A key Maoist operative ruffled feathers when he made serious claims against Delhi University Professor Nandini Sundar and rights activist Bela Bhatia at a press conference in Raipur on Wednesday. Podiyam Panda, who allegedly confessed to being part of the April 24 Sukma ambush told reporters that he was the only link for meetings between senior Maoists and Sundar and Bhatia in South Bastar.
Panda said he used to drive activists from Delhi including Sundar and Bhatia on a motorbike deep into forests of Sukma for meetings with top Maoists like Ramanna, Hidma ,Paparao Aaytu, Arjun and others. He said he also acted as a courier for them. These allegations have however been strongly denied by Sundar who termed the confession as forced and coerced.
Sukma SP Abhishek Meena said, "Maoist Podiyam Panda has been serving as the main link between inner cadre of Maoists and urban network system in Delhi, Raipur and other cities. He said that he was part of several incidents including the recent one at Burkapal in which the CRPF personnel were fired upon. Panda was also part of the deadly Tadmetla attack that killed 75 CRPF jawans in 2010, he said.
Panda surrendered on May 9 after being underground for 20 years, but this was kept a secret due to security reasons and death threats. It was his information helped police arrest eight Maoists on Tuesday, the police officer also added.