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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 29, July 10, 2010

Heading Towards Another Emergency?

Editorial

Friday 16 July 2010, by SC

Last week the CPI (Maoist) spokesperson and one of the topmost leaders of the organisation, Cherukuri Rajkumar (popularly known as Azad) was killed in a dense forest in Andhra Pradesh’s Adilabad district. The official version was that Azad was having a meeting with some people in the jungle when the Andhra Pradesh Police, on a tip-off, swooped down on them. There ensued a gunbattle at the end of which two were killed—Azad and another person who was first thought to be Sahdev, a tribal young man connected with the Maoists in Dandakaranya. Later it came to be known that the other person killed was none other than Hem Chandra Pandey, a freelance journalist based in New Delhi who, according to some reports, was a Zonal Committee member of the Maoist party in Uttarakhand.

The official version has been strongly contested by not only the CPI (Maoist) but also others, including several human rights activists and members of the civil society. They assert that Azad was arrested in Nagpur on July 1 when he was on his way to Dandakaranya to meet the party leaders, his colleagues in the CPI (Maoist) Polit-Bureau and Central Committee, for discussing the modalities of a ceasefire as well as negotiations with the Union Government based on Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s letter to Swami Agnivesh and Azad’s own response to Chidambaram’s offer that the Maoist spokesperson conveyed to Agnivesh on May 31, 2010 (see page 4 of this issue). He was then taken to Adilabad from Nagpur and killed in cold blood in the forest there in the early hours of July 2. Hem Chandra Pandey was also killed in order to enable the authorities suppress the truth (since he was an eyewitness to the state’s perfidy).

Azad had, in an interview published in this journal last January, urged the media not to do anything that would result in truth being a casualty in the ongoing war in our tribal heartland. Excerpts of that interview are being carried in this issue as well as we remember Azad following his untimely death. [Little did we realise when we published the full interview six months ago that Azad’s statement on this score would become so prophetic in such a brief time-span.]

We are certain that the authorities would refute the facts brought out in the foregoing. But try as much as they can, they would not be able to shut out the truth for long and it will, like daylight, eventually break out in all its manifestations. To facilitate that process we demand an impartial and thorough inquiry into the entire incident.

From the sequence of events regarding this episode it is now transparent that the government in New Delhi, despite Chidambaram’s affirmations to the contrary, was not only non-serious on the issue of negotiations with the Maoists but actually opposed the whole concept of talks; or else Azad would not have met the fate that he did. He was a leading figure in an outlawed organisation; for that reason he could have been arrested. As for the specific charges against him, those could have been produced in a court of law as the rule of law warrants. But there was no reason to kill him; such killings happen only in the banana republics. The killing of Pandey also signifies a renewed assault on both freedom of speech and democracy and this is fraught with grave consequences.

Meanwhile the resounding success of the Bharat Bandh called by the entire Opposition on July 5 has sent shivers down the spine of not just the government at the Centre but all those, like the bigwigs of the corporate sector, backing the Union Cabinet to the hilt on the petrol price hike as well as deregulation of the prices of such commodities. The bandh’s success is a genuine barometer of the people’s mood at present as the poorer sections of society, who comprise the bulk of the aam aadmi, are groaning under the impact of incessant price rise and runaway inflation even as the authorities and India Inc. cast a blind eye to their plight. Meanwhile convinced of the corporate lobby’s total support to his policies, the PM has summarily dismissed the Opposition’s call for a rollback of the government’s decisions in this regard which, incidentally, is also the demand of some of the Congress’ own allies in the UPA (like the Trinamul Congress).

At the same time the situation in the Kashmir Valley is turning from bad to worse with the security forces running amuk—the CRPF killed four more persons (again mostly young people and teenagers) on July 6 taking the death toll over the last few days to 16—and the State authorities have been compelled to seek the help of the Army to restore law and order.

All these developments not only cause serious anxiety and concern but also raise the natural question: where are we heading? There are ominous forebodings of the country inexorably hurtling down towards yet another Internal Emergency. One sincerely hopes these fears are belied and good sense dawns on those at the helm of affairs before it is too late.

July 7 S.C.

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