2 PM, 3RD AUGUST 2010, RAJENDRA BHAVAN, DEEN DAYAL UPADHYAY MARG, NEW DELHI
The Public Meeting to demand the judicial enquiry into the killings of Azad, the spokesperson and Polit Bureau member of the CPI (Maoist) along with journalist Hem Chandra Pandey at Rajendra Bhavan, New Delhi was addressed by a large number of prominent citizens in the presence of packed auditorium. Dr. B D Sharma, former National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes of Government of India chaired the public meeting and started the proceedings of the meeting by calling upon the audience to observe one minute’s silence in commemoration of Azad and Hem Chandra Pandey. Dr Anup Saraya a well-known doctor and democratic rights activist convened the meeting to start it proceedings.
G N Saibaba, conducting the meeting for the Chair told the audience that when he was killed, Azad was in the process of preparing the ground for talks on behalf of his party with the Government of India through Swami Agnivesh. In the manner and at the juncture in which he along with Hem Pandey has been killed has triggered a public uproar, and there is a strong demand to institute a judicial investigation into the circumstances of the killing of Azad and Hem Pandey.
Prof. Haragopal, Professor Emeritus, University of Hyderabad condoling the killings stated that a leading revolutionary of the country has been killed when Azad was carrying a message to the leadership about the final details of the proposed talks. Azad’s letter in response to the proposal for a dialogue clearly states that his party was more than willing to come to the discussion table, a party which is fighting to make our society a more humane one. The Indian government is asked by the people of India why Azad was killed when he was carrying a message of peace. The paradox of our times is that those who are talking of peace are pursuing war and those who are purported to be at war with the Indian state are more committed to peace. He then shared the experiences of talks between the government of Andhra Pradesh and CPI(ML) (People War) and Janashakti, stating that he felt the same guilt that Swami Agnivesh is now feeling for the killing of many Naxalites involved in the process of a dialogue which failed ultimately in 2004. Prof Haragopal further stated that the government has repeatedly betrayed the hopes generated by the peace loving masses of the country by repeatedly betraying the process of talks.
Releasing the memorial booklet on Azad by the ‘Friends of Azad’ Sumit Chakravartty, editor of Mainstream Weekly, observed that the cold blooded manner in which Azad was killed by the state has shocked the country, and the people responsible for it must be held accountable for it. Rajkishore, General Secretary of Revolutionary Democratic Front said that the brutal killing of Azad and Hem Chandra Pandey by the government has not only betrayed the trust of Swami Agnivesh but all the peace loving and democratic people of the country. He said that this killing is a part of the Indian state’s war on people in the name of Operation Green Hunt to facilitate imperialist loot of people’s resources. Through this war, the Indian state wants to crush the alternative model of development by the Maoist movement, and the establishment of new people’s power through Jantana Sarkar ( People’s Government) which has taken the shape of a truly democratic power in the forests of Dandakaranya.
Meher Engineer, a civil rights activist from Kolkata, while reiterating the demand for a judicial investigation into the murder of comrade Azad and Hem Pandey free from the influence of the government. He threw fresh light on the ongoing Lalgarh movement under the PCPA. Sujato Bhadra, the secretary of the APDR, stated that we are living under the reign of the pathological liars in West Bengal, where fake encounters are being carried out by the armed forces of the state with impunity. The right to a normal life for the people of Lalgarh has been taken away by the state. Thousands of activists, people’s leaders, and villagers have been incarcerated, rapes are committed, molestation and state terror has become a daily occurrence.
Pushkar Raj of PUCL stated that we have been taught that the state is the protector of the people. However in India that phase seemed to have come to an end in 1970s. He drew notice to the human rights violations and disrespect to the constitution, the abdication of all responsibility by the NHRC, which has become nothing but a white elephant, and the shocking reaction of our Home Minister in out-rightly rejecting the demand for a judicial Inquiry into the killings of Azad and Hem Chandra Pandey. He said, Maoists are also people like us, who are fighting against poverty, hunger and deprivation. We must be more and more resolute in protesting the extra-judicial killings.
SAR Geelani presented the resolution which was adopted by the meeting after suggestions and modifications. The final form of the resolution is attached here.
Swami Agnivesh, the mediator to the proposed talks between the CPI(Maoist) and the government expressed his condolence to the death or killing of Azad and Hem Chandra Pandey. He said that even though we know that the system of enquiries in our country is long and winding, yet we are demanding a judicial enquiry to get at the truth of their killings. He informed that the Home Minister declined his request for a judicial enquiry, instead asking him go to the Home Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The Home Minister who himself said his letter to Swami Agnivesh was confidential made it public on programme in TV channel CNN IBN, while his own hands were tied to confidentiality. Swami Agnivesh told that he was suprised to find that the Maoists said that they were ready for ceasefire and talks.. He said, “The Maoists asked me to fix the dates for the dialogue, and I gave three dates in consultation with the government. But instead of the news of peace talks I got the news of the killing of Azad. I felt guilty knowing that he was with my letter to conduct the final round of consultations. I have seen both the versions of the government and the police. I might not have believed the Maoist version, if Hem Chandra Pandey was also not killed along with Azad in order to eliminate the evidence. Babita Pandey, his wife saw him off to Nagpur on 30th June. On 1st July there is the news of his killing. We have therefore reasons to believe that this is the worst kind of fake encounter, whereby the government has not only killed two persons extra-judicially but also betrayed the peace process.” He further appealed to intensify the struggle for upholding democracy, and for the rights of the poor people of the country. By remembering Azad, he said that we must carry forward the legacy of Bhagat Singh, and raise the banner of inquilab, so that no one is forced to take up arms to fight for justice.
Varavara Rao, revolutionary poet told that the simple fact that the state is the perpetrator of violence seems to be difficult for the civil society to comprehend. He said that we may meet and negotiate with Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram’s government, but we must know their true character, that they are the agents of the imperialists. While in the last meeting on 25th May we were talking about peace talks, today we are talking about judicial Inquiry. In the last two days we are demanding that the encircling of comrade Saroj, a Central Committee Member of CPI(Maoist) by the intelligence agencies in the country’s capital, who is carrying Swami Agnivesh’s letter to Ganapathy, the General Secretary of CPI (Maoist) must be withdrawn. Comrade Saroj who is making efforts for the talks, and who is unarmed, has now been encircled and hounded. This is the true character of the Indian state. To make the government and the civil society convinced about their commitment to peace, the Maoists are making so many sacrifices. Even so, for the concern of the people the Maoists are coming out repeatedly for talks. He asked, whether the government is ready for it? Varavara Rao concluded by saying that today’s rulers of India, whether Manmohan, Chidambaram, Modi or Buddhadeb, are on one side and the people on the other. Rao appealed to the civil society to make all efforts for talks, and assured that the Maoists will support this effort in their quest for justice.
Prashant Bhushan, senior lawyer of the Supreme Court stated that the unbridled exploitation and plunder of people’s resources by the corporations with the active aid of the government is taking the people to the fold of the Maoists. Arundhati Roy, writer, speaking in the public meeting, asserted that Azad foretold his death so many times in his writings and interviews, reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s poem ‘A Death Foretold’. She said that the time for revolution has come, since all the institutions of the state have failed the people of the country. E M Abdur Rehman, chairperson of the Popular Front of India (PFI), addressing the meeting reiterated the demand for a judicial enquiry and asserted that all forms of atrocities and repression of adivasis, dalits and minorities need to be resisted, while protesting against framed up charges, abductions extra-judicial killings by the state’s armed police and armed forces.
Radhika Menon of CPI(ML) (Liberation) told the audience that we don’t demand Judicial Inquiry to be constituted into the killings of Azad and Hem Pandey only for the state to see its face in the mirror. For us, the people’s organisations it is crystal clear how the state killed them.
Satnam the author of Jangalnama, a book recently published by Penguin on the revolutionary people’s movement of Dandakaranya narrated the story of the people’s resistance.
Dr B D Sharma the chair concluded the meeting by telling the invincible nature the struggles of adivasi people in India and called upon the people of the country to stand by them.
RESOLUTION ADOPTED IN THE PUBLIC MEETING
We strongly condemn the killing of Azad (Cherukuri Rajkumar), a Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the spokesperson of its Central Committee along with the Delhi-based journalist Hem Chandra Pandey by the Andhra Pradesh police in Adilabad district on 1st of July, 2010. While the Indian government and the AP police was quick to claim that both were killed after a four-hour long exchange of fire, the circumstantial evidence points towards an alleged fake encounter after the APSIB took the two in illegal custody on 1st July 2010 in or on their way to Nagpur, abducted and later assassinated them in cold blood.
Azad has been associated with the Maoist movement for nearly four decades, starting his political activism in the radical students’ movement in Andhra Pradesh in 1970s, and was at the forefront of the anti-Emergency struggle in that state. He fought and died for what he believed to be a new society free from all forms of exploitation and oppression. Azad was familiar as the spokesperson of his party, regularly articulating position on various issues through numerous statements, articles and interviews. At the time of his murder, Azad was representing the CPI(Maoist) in exploring the possibilities of talks with the Indian government, which was at a crucial stage. It has been learnt that Azad was in the process of finalizing the dates for mutual ceasefire and possible dates for the commencement of the much-anticipated talks in consultation with his party leadership, when he was killed in the fake-encounter. In all probability this murder had the sanction of the highest authorities in the Indian government, resulting in a setback to the efforts made towards the talks. This puts the commitment and seriousness of the Indian government towards negotiations in grave doubt, and reflects its desire to further escalate the ongoing armed conflict and Operation Green Hunt.
Hem Chandra Pandey, a Delhi-based journalist who contributed regularly to Nai Duniya, Rashtriya Sahara, Chetana and other Hindi newspapers and magazines, was with Azad at the time of his killing by the AP police. It is suspected that he has been eliminated in the fake encounter in order to do away with an eye-witness of this extra-judicial detention, abduction and murder. Hem has been part of various democratic and progressive movements in Uttarakhand from his student days, and has been highlighting people’s issues and problems through his journalistic writings. Hem’s friends remember him as an inspiring figure who has been an outspoken critique of the anti-people policies of the government. Silencing of a journalist in this manner is a strong reminder to the presence of an undeclared emergency imposed by the Indian rulers that has suspended the democratic and civil rights of the citizens, particularly in the areas of people’s struggles.
While condemning in the strongest possible words the killings of Azad and Hem Chandra Pandey, we demand that the government constitute an immediate judicial enquiry to probe into the incident. We also demand an immediate stop to all extra-judicial execution of revolutionaries as well as activists and leaders of people’s movements. The government must respect the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the people to life and dignity. The gagging of the media and stifling of media freedom must be stopped by the government. We demand an end to the Indian government’s war on people in the name of Operation Green Hunt, and the immediate withdrawal of its armed forces from the areas of conflict. The government must scrap all the MoUs signed with the multinational and Indian corporations for the exploitation of mineral resources at the expense of people’s lives and livelihood. The Indian government must also politically address the demands of the struggling people of Kashmir and the North East through dialogue, and must stop the brutal repression of their voices through state repression.
CONCERNED CITIZENS & FORUM AGAINST WAR ON PEOPLE
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