By Twesh Mishra:
Adding another angle to the already cryptic Kandhamal hostage crisis, a leading news channel has suggested that Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda is losing his Dalit support base. Panda who built his support base with members of the local Dalit community who converted to Christianity seems to have overlooked the popularity of Italian nationals Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo in the region.
Panda gained prominence in the region when he admitted to having killed VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati for reconverting Christians to Hinduism. This killing had triggered the Kandhamal communal riots of 2008 wherein Fast Track Court Judge B N Mishra acquitted 9 more accused for lack of evidence on Saturday April 7 itself, taking the number of those absolved of charges to over 170.
The locals have claimed to have known Bosusco for over two decades and have been reinforcing that Panda might have abducted the two Italians without knowing their identity. Claudio, the released Italian too reflected the opinion of the locals and ensured that his colleague would be released without any harm due to the sustained efforts of the locals and the fact that they are well known in the region. Such is the desire of the regional community to ensure a safe release to Bosusco that a special prayer at a local church in Daringbadi on Good Friday was organised for his early release.
The Naxal menace has for long been a persisting wound for the Orissa government, the prominence of Maoist leaders and the faith that the locals have in them is a striking evidence of the lack of government support in the region. It is noteworthy that none of the locals have been mentioning anything about the release of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator Jhina Hikaka further reinstating the lack of trust that the local community has towards the form of governance.
The communally sensitive area of Kandhamal has been aptly utilised by the Naxals to generate and sustain support. The absence of any credible government infrastructure coupled with the religious differences within the community have mounted into a haven for extra government activities, the lure of quick money with a touch of liberation have for long been instrumental in ensuring persistent support for the Naxalites.