A new outfit calling itself M2 and claiming to support the Hindus and tribal people has surfaced in Orissa, raising doubts on whether the Maoist cadre in the state stand divided.
The outfit came out in support of the Hindus and tribal people after the Communist Party of India-Maoists claimed responsibility for the murder of religious leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in August.
A Maoist leader, through an audio release, claimed that the organisation in Orissa remained undivided. Neither the state government nor the police have any information about any split among left wing extremist ranks.
"Though some posters and leaflets appeared in the name of M2, the government is yet to confirm whether it is a splinter group of the original outfit or a new organisation," Home Secretary Aditya Padhi told PTI adding the intelligence wing had been examining the development.
While no one in the administration or police had any clue about M2 and its leaders, the mysterious body had already made its presence felt by enforcing a bandh in three districts on January 3.
The call evoked spontaneous response in violence-ravaged Kandhamal and was partial in two other adjoining districts, Gajapati and Ganjam.
"It was a successful bandh organised through posters and leaflets as no activist was seen picketing on streets to enforce the shutdown," a senior police officer said.
Officials in the intelligence wing, who have been keeping a close watch on Maoist activities in Orissa, however, said that there were similarities between the style of functioning of CPI (Maoist) and the newly-formed outfit.
Both undertook campaigns through posters, wall writings and messages on trees as the means of communicating with the people, an intelligence expert said.
While the CPI (Maoist) was affiliated to the PLGA (Peoples' Liberation Guerrilla Army), the new outfit is supposed to have formed a separate ideological platform in the name of IDGA (Ideological Democratic Guerrilla Army).
The CPI (Maoist) had claimed responsibility for Laxmanananda's killing. But the new outfit, through its banners and posters, has pledged to protect Hindus and the tribal people.
It gives a strong indication that a small fraction of Maoists might have created a new outfit because of the change of stand by top leaders, a senior government official said.
''A top Maoist leader had earlier told the media that they work for the protection of minority Christians and, therefore killed Saraswati," the official said adding some within the cadre might not have supported the move.
Generally, Maoists across the country never are known to take any religious line. "This could be the first instance of Maoists eliminating a religious leader and working on religious lines,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the Kui Samaj Samanwyay Samiti, a tribal body in Kandhamal, had announced its support to the new Maoist organisation.
''We do not know who the leader of M2 is. But we support the outfit on the basis of the content of its posters. They have announced plans to fight for the interest of tribal people who are exploited,'' KSSS leader Lambodar Kanhar told PTI.
With confusion still gripping the people in Kandhamal and other Maoist-affected districts, the police was apprehensive of a battle between the two outfits on religious lines which could further worsen the situation in the riot-hit district.
''Tackling Maoist activities is a problem, but division on religious lines can have an adverse impact on the society,'' a senior intelligence official said.