In what the police claimed to be a crucial achievement, a key Maoist cadrewho was allegedly involvedin the deadly attack on Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel last month has surrendered in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district. According to police, the surrendered ultra has admitted to have arranged meeting between New Delhi-basedsocial activists and Maoist leaders in Sukma. "Podiyam Pandu alias Panda (45) had surrendered on May 9 at Sukma district headquarters and was presented before media today," Sukma Superintendent of Police Abhishek Meena told PTI. Panda, a janmilitia deputy commander of Maoists, was allegedly involvedin the attack on CRPF patrolling party on April 24 last inBurkapalarea under Chintagufa police station limits wherein 25 personnel were killed, he added. He had earlier served as Sarpanch of Chintagufa village while his wife is the incumbent sarpanch of the village. The ultra was carrying a reward of Rs 1 lakh on his head. During interrogation, he revealed that Naxals were keeping an eye on the activities of security forces in Burkapal and Chintagufa axis since April 15 before executing the attack, the SP said. According to Panda, on April 24, lower rung cadres had tipped off about the movement of paramilitary forces from their camp, to armed ultras who were stationed at Kasalpada village, around 7-8 kms away from the spot, he said. Subsequently, the rebels laid the ambush within an hour at a targeted location and launched the attack at around 11:30 am. Armed with Insas rifle, Panda was also among the attackers, the SP claimed. After the encounter, Panda and his associates shifted their injured colleagues and the dead body of Naxal commander Anil towards Kasalpada.
He came back to his house the same evening after returning his rifle to Maoist commander Arjun, he added. Panda had contacted Chintagufa police on May 7 expressing his desire to join the mainstream and later brought to Sukma where he finally turned himself in on May 9, the SP said. A native of Chintagufa, Panda has been associated with senior Maoist leaders, including Ramanna, Hidma, Maddana, Paparao and Situ since 1997, and acting as a courier for them for transporting various commodities after procuring it from cities, the SP said. In 2014, he left his native place and shifted to nearby Minpa village where he started working with Duled Janatana Sarkar squad which was being headed by commander Aayta. Later in 2016, he was elevated as militia deputy commander, he said. He was a key cadre in the region and has been instrumental in executing several deadly attacks in south Bastar, including Tadmetla attack wherein 76 troopers were killed (2010) and Kasalpada attack in which 14 CRPF personnel were killed (December 2014), he added. Besides, Panda was also part of the Naxals squad that had kept then Sukma Collector Alex Pual Menon in its captivity in 2012, he added. Panda also revealed that he had arranged meetings of activists from Delhi with Maoist leaders like Ramanna and Hidma several times in the interior villages of Sukma, the SP said, adding that his surrender is an important achievement for the cops. According to police sources, Panda was also familiar with urban network of Maoists and played a crucial role in arranging meetings of Maoist sympathisers from the town with ultras in jungles. His interrogation may facilitate the arrest of Maoist supporters in urban areas, sources added.