Kandhamal killings split Orissa Maoists on religious lines

December 30th, 2008 - 11:51 am ICT by IANS  

Berhampur (Orissa), Dec 30 (IANS) The killing of a Hindu leader and his associates that triggered attacks on Christians in Orissa have split the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) on religious lines for the first time, with many Hindu members breaking away to form a rival group.The unexpected development, which have taken many by surprise, came to light when the breakaway faction put up posters threatening to target Christian members of the CPI-Maoist in the state.

The new group calls itself “IDGA-Maoist”, which some posters say is the acronym for “Idealize of Democrat Garila (Guerrilla) Army (Maoist)”.

According to informed sources, the new group’s formal inauguration will take place Jan 3 at an undisclosed location under the leadership of a guerrilla identified only as M2.

The origin of the split is the Aug 23 gunning down of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swamy Laxmanananda Saraswati and four associates at Jallespata in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district.

It sparked off an orgy of violence against Christians, whom the VHP blamed for Saraswati’s killing. About 40 people, mostly poor Christians in rural areas, were killed.

While the police blamed the Maoists for the killings, the VHP insisted that Christians were responsible. The CPI-Maoist claimed responsibility for the murder, saying Saraswati was creating a sectarian divide in the impoverished region.

The breakaway IDGA’s posters have denounced the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), the military wing of the CPI-Maoist, and its leader Sabyasachi Panda for the VHP leader’s death.

A Maoist sympathiser close to the new faction told IANS that the main reason behind the break-up was the Kandhamal violence, for which he blamed Panda.

“Maoists don’t have any religion. Their religion is to safeguard the vulnerable people and fight exploitation and oppression. But those under Panda are acting like a mafia,” he said, requesting anonymity.

People familiar with the Maoist movement in the state believe that the split will result in escalation of violence.

Sixteen of Orissa’s 30 districts are considered Maoist- dominated. Six southwestern districts - Malkangiri, Koraput, Raygada, Kandhamal, Nayagarh and Gajapati - are the worst hit.

The existing Maoist group active in southern Orissa is known as the Bansadhara Divisional Committee. This is expected to face the wrath of the splitters.

Nihar Nayak, an expert on Maoists at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, told IANS that if a split has indeed taken place on religious lines, it would mark a first in India’s Left history.

“Since the Maoist movement began in India, they have never supported a specific religion or caste or community,” he said.

Nayak added that the objective of the splinter group would be “to protect Hindus from Maoist attacks and retaliate by killing Christian leaders” in the state.

In its posters, the new group has threatened to kill one Christian on the 23rd of every month — to avenge Saraswati’s murder Aug 23.

The new group’s area of influence includes three regions: southcentral Orissa, Ghumsar division in southern Orissa and Bansadhara division which shares a border with Andhra Pradesh.

Some police officials here fear the law and order situation in the region might worsen if the new group starts revenge killing, inviting retaliation.

“It is certain that violence will escalate and this split is going to be a major headache for the already burdened police force,” a senior officer told IANS requesting anonymity.

Deputy Inspector General of Police P. Koche told IANS: “I don’t have any information regarding this new Maoist group.”

Sanjeeb Panda, another deputy inspector general of police, added: “We don’t have any official information regarding the split. But I can’t rule out that there has been a split among the Maoists.”

(Saroj Kumar Pattnaik can be contacted at saroj.p@ians.in)

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