Odisha Sun Times Bureau:
Bhubaneswar, Jan 9:
Odisha’s top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda’s childhood friend Birabara Behera has told the Justice AS Naidu commission of inquiry on Thursday that Panda and he were into rice trading for many years.
‘‘I know Sabyasachi Panda since my childhood as we studied in the same school. Later, we went on to do rice trading together. In the last 10-12 years, I have despatched 70-80 rice consignments to him. He was living in village then. He used to supply them to other places. However, I am not in touch with him after his arrest,’’ said Behera, who hails from Mayurjhaila village under Ranpur block in Nayagarh district, while deposing before the one man Commission probing the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.
Claiming that the man who appeared on television interview after Sarswati’s killing was not his friend, Behera said; “The masked man’s gestures were different from Sabyasachi’s.” However, he conceded that it was difficult to make out from the covered face and the voice whether that person was Sabyasachi or not.
Meanwhile, the next phase of hearing has been scheduled for 29-31 this month as the recording of statements was not over. Sabyasachi Panda’s wife Subhashree Panda alias Milli Panda was scheduled to depose before the inquiry Commission on Thursday. However, citing health reasons, she prayed the court to grant her some time. The inquiry Commission asked her to submit an affidavit before January 29 after which her statement would be recorded.
Besides, the six journalists who had interviewed Sabyasachi after Saraswati’s killing, would depose before the Justice AS Naidu commission of inquiry again.
On Wednesday, Krishna Kumari Panda, mother of Sabyasachi Panda, had told the Justice AS Naidu commission of inquiry that the man who gave the interview on television owning up to the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswari was not her son.
She had alleged that the government is trying to frame her son. Incidentally, this has been the consistent stand of Panda’s family members.
It may be recalled that Sabyasachi, who was the state secretary of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) then, had told a team of journalists from Bhubaneswar in an interview a few days after the incident that his cadres had killed Saraswati.
A copy of the taped interview was submitted to the inquiry Commission. Following this, the interviewers were summoned to appear before the Commission. All of them coorborated the version of Sabyasachi. Basing on this, the Commission had served a notice on Sabyasachi to appear before the commission of inquiry.
In the affidavit, Sabyasachi Panda had dismissed the allegations of his involvement in the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. The half-masked man appearing on the television interview claiming the responsibility of killing Saraswati was not him and the voice heard was not his, he had said in the affidavit.