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April 5, 2000
Naidu's offer on PWG is bogus, feel rights activists
Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's invitation to revolutionary ballad singer Gaddar and revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao for an all-party meeting to discuss the Naxalite problem has raised more scepticism than hope among human rights groups and police officials.
Naidu, who made the offer during a discussion in the state assembly on the left-wing extremist activities on April 3, almost did a volte face at the day-long meeting of the chief ministers of the five Naxalite-affected states, which was convened by Union Home Minister L K Advani the very next day, by proposing a multi-pronged strategy against the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist People's War.
He asked the Union government to impose a ban on the People's War, infamous as the PWG, in all the states affected, and called for harsher measures. Presently, the PWG is outlawed only in Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu said the Naxalite problem was too serious an issue to be dealt with routinely.
He also suggested that the Union government enact stringent laws to curb left-wing extremism on the lines of the counter-terrorism laws mooted by Italy and United Kingdom. He sought the use of unmanned remote aircraft developed by Israel, and that of satellite pictures to identify Naxalite hideouts in the five states.
However, the way Naidu made the offer "quite reluctantly" to Rao and Gaddar, in response to Congress legislator T Jeevan Reddy's suggestion in the assembly on Monday, and his "tough and frank" talk at Delhi, only exposes the lack of sincerity to have a real dialogue, according to civil rights activists in Hyderabad.
Incidentally, the invitation to Gaddar and Rao came even as the Nizamabad district police registered a case against Rao for his alleged association with the PWG and "for promoting the underground movement by participating in its activities."
Nizamabad Superintendent of Police Dr Ravi Shankar Ayyanar got the case registered against Rao on the strength of pictures recovered from two Radical Youth League members. The photos showed him attending a function organised by the PWG in Manala village in Kammarapalli way back in 1995, and unveiling a martyr's memorial for women cadre killed in encounters.
For the last several months, especially since the Koyyur encounter on December 2, in which three top PWG leaders -- Nalla Adi Reddy, Yerram Reddy Santosh Reddy and Seelam Naresh -- were killed, the police all over the state had stepped up restrictions on Rao and Gaddar. When the duo went to several districts to address meetings demanding a judicial probe into the "cold-blooded killing of PWG leaders in a fake encounter," the police refused permission for the meetings and took them into custody.
Director-General of Police H J Dora and the superintendents of police in the Naxalite-affected districts have too often dubbed the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee and other human rights groups as the "frontal organisations" of the PWG. The police has also been complacent in tracing the culprits involved in an attack on Gaddar a few years ago.
"The utterances of Chandrababu Naidu only show the duality of his approach to this problem," says prominent lawyer and the president of People's Union for Civil Liberties, K G Kannabiran.
"I am really happy that the chief minister, by inviting Gaddar and Rao for the all-party meet, has admitted to the failure of his policy of repression pursued against the Naxalites in recent years," he adds.
Retired bureaucrat and convenor of the Committee of Concerned Citizens S R Sankaran too welcomed the chief minister's decision concerning Rao and Gaddar. He hoped the proposed initiative would lead to abatement of violence in the state and enlarge the democratic space and scope for the resolution of the people's problems.
Reminded about Naidu's utterances at the CMs' meet, Sankaran told rediff.com on Wednesday that the CCC was more concerned with the dialogue on the Naxalite issue.
"There is only a fight so far, not a dialogue. But any dialogue is welcome. For really a dialogue to start, I personally feel that there is a need to ensure that the scale of violence is reduced," he said.
Gaddar and Rao also laid preconditions for participating in the meeting. They maintained that since neither belong to any political party, Naidu should invite the United Struggle Committee Against Fake Encounters, the AP Civil Liberties Committee and the People's Union for Civil Liberties for the talks.
Rao also noted that Naidu did not appear sincere about his invitation.
Claiming that a conducive atmosphere for fruitful discussions did not exist, they wanted the chief minister to accept the four pre-conditions laid down by the United Struggle Committee in March last year. These are: stop fake encounters immediately, book culpable homicide cases under section 302 IPC against those involved in encounter killings, order judicial probes into all fake encounters and a probe into the Koyyur encounter by a Supreme Court judge, and lift the ban on the PWG.
For their part, the he police are not at all happy about the CM's "spontaneous offer." "Where is the point in inviting these leaders, who are known for their proximity to the PWG, for talks when they don't condemn the killing of policemen, politicians and innocent citizens by the PWG's armed squads?" a senior police officer asks.
"Naidu's offer will only demoralise the police personnel who have been risking their lives to put down the extremist menace with an iron hand," he adds.
Police sources reject the "pre-conditions" put forth by Rao and Gaddar as "preposterous" and impractical. "They talk about fake encounters. We say there are no fake encounters. Then there is no question of booking cases of culpable homicide against policemen or ordering judicial probe into the encounters.
"How can the ban on PWG be lifted when the chief minister and the Union home minister themselves figure on its hit-list?" they ask.
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