8/7/2010: Press Conference by Concerned Citizens (Press Club, New Delhi)

Institute a Judicial Inquiry into the Killing of Azad, Polit Bureau Member of CPI (Maoist) and Freelance Journalist Hem Chandra Pandey

Stop War on People, Take up Peace Process Genuinely and Sincerely

The Government of India has not issued a statement or given a public clarification so far on the killing of Azad, spokesperson of CPI (Maoist), and Delhi-based journalist Hem Chandra Pandey on 2 July 2010. Subsequent to these incidents, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram who has been outspoken on his ‘abjure violence for 72 hours’ position, has been remarkably silent on these instances of state violence, and on his offer of ceasefire and dialogue with the Maoists. Nor has he responded to strong and widespread protests against these instances of the state’s violence. This is especially consequential because Azad was communicating with the Home Minister through Swami Agnivesh on his offer of ceasefire and dialogue.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and freedom of Press, asked the Government of India to investigate the circumstances under which freelance journalist Hem Chandra Pandey was killed. Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said that “specialized in covering social issues, he ( Hemant Pandey) had gone to Nagpur to interview a leader of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), Cherukuri Rajkumar, alias Azad, who was said to be attempting to negotiate a truce with the authorities”. Further the basic principles of Article 21 of the Constitution and United Nations Declaration of Human Rights demand that there should be a judicial inquiry into this assassination.

Hundreds of organizations throughout the world have condemned the killing of Azad and Hem Chandra Pandey and demanded an enquiry by a constitutionally mandated agency. Yet the Government of India continues to remain silent. Swami Agnivesh, the interlocutor of the Government has publicly expressed his anguish and declared that he fears that the system of communication opened to negotiate the peace process was used to trace and then kill Azad.

On 1 August 2010 another senior leader of CPI (Maoist) Srikant alias Sukant informed Varavara Rao that he was being closely followed and encircled by the Andhra Pradesh Intelligence Bureau (APSIB). [Varavara Rao is a revolutionary poet and was one of the emissaries of the erstwhile CPI (ML) (People’s War) during the talks between the former and the Andhra Pradesh government in 2002 and 2004]. Two days later on 3 August 2010 Srikant wrote an open letter to Swami Agnivesh informing him that he [Srikant] narrowly escaped the dragnet of the APSIB which is notorious for killings political dissidents with impunity. In his own words,

“The APSIB encircled me and for the time being I am out of it. In these circumstances it is difficult for me to send any reply to you through some channels or send your letter to our comrades. I request you to openly publish your letters in the papers. Any channel if you try to send through, it might end up in some loss. We can no more afford that”.

Swami Agnivesh has stated that, after being urged by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself to continue with the Peace Process, he sent a fresh letter to the central leadership of the CPI (Maoist) dated 22 July 2010. It appears that now Srikant has taken responsibility for conveying messages for consideration of his Party’s Central leadership regarding the ceasefire and dialogue with the Government of India. Srikant’s testimony advises us that he was being followed by intelligence agencies, with the idea to encounter him. Fortunately he escaped. The Government has remained silent on these developments as well. From Srikant’s account, as well as from the killings of Azad and Pandey, it appears that the government is only interested in the peace process as a means to target and kill any of the CPI (Maoist) cadre that tries to respond and participate in this process.

The reported sequence of events clearly indicate that the Government of India is really not interested in establishing dialogue and ending the rigorous military offensive it has been waging in the tribal regions for almost a year now. The military offensive (codenamed Operation Green Hunt) that was initiated by the UPA-2 Government in September 2010 in the tribal regions continues unabated although civil society and democratic organisations have long been demanding a ceasefire and dialogue in the place of the military offensive.

The onus now is on the Government of India. It has to clarify whether it is still interested in initiating a ceasefire and dialogue or is only obsessed with warmongering and military offensives on resisting peoples and organisations like CPI (Maoist) who are in the forefront of such resistance.

It has become increasingly clear in the last one year to the people of this country that the UPA-2 government is only interested in a military solution to the urgent and appalling problems of lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of the toiling masses. It has also become clear that this extreme impatience and aggression are fuelled by the need to facilitate the unbridled and swift plunder of vast mineral resources. This is evidenced by the numerous MoUs that have been signed by the big corporate houses and various state governments. The present military offensive against the people in the states like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra is in fact aimed at emptying these regions of their people, so that these MOU-targeted lands may be handed over for exploitation and plunder. Such massive mining operations will completely devastate lives, habitats and ecologies.

In areas where there is little people’s resistance like Bayyaram iron ore mines in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh or the mines in the Bellary region in Karnataka, exploitative elements like the corrupt Reddy brothers and former AP Chief Minister’s family in violation of every norm and law of the land, are plundering millions of tons of iron ore. This mining mafia is amassing mind-boggling quantities of wealth that may easily be used to control or destabilise (state) governments. They could also quite easily control the largest ruling conglomerations in the country like UPA or NDA and their ‘High Commands’. The State’s ferocity is being met by a vast and determined people’s resistance to their exploitation, displacement and destruction by mining and corporate mafias that, shockingly enough, are being encouraged and propped up by governments that have been elected by the very people they are displacing and seeking to annihilate.

We demand a ceasefire and dialogue. Only that will ensure that people get the space to air, discuss and debate the urgent outstanding issues that are devastating their lives, livelihoods and habitats. Initiatives may be then taken to stop the unmindful, rapacious and utterly unethical destruction of lives and habitats for the super profit of mafias and multinational corporations.

The Government of India (GoI) must now make its position on the Peace Process absolutely clear.

In this context the GoI should come out clearly on whether or not it has any intention of carrying out a peace process leading to a ceasefire and dialogue. It cannot indulge in the

duplicity of stepping up war preparations such as planning to deploy military and air force and simultaneously claim that they are also committed to peace process. GoI should explain why it is shadowing leaders of CPI (Maoist) who respond to its offer of peace process, with killer teams.


The Government of India should institute a judicial inquiry into the killing of Azad and Journalist Hem Chandra Pandey,


It should immediately stop Operation Green Hunt and all withdraw paramilitary forces


Repeal UAPA and bring the cases under this draconian legislation into the purview of ordinary CRPC


Make public all MoUs and their full texts. Review them through a public debate.


Restore full land and forest rights to adivasis.


Immediately return the lands already grabbed from the people.

Dr B D Sharma, Prof Manoranjan Mohanty, Madhu Bhadhuri, Varvara Rao, Sumit Chakravartty, G N Saibaba


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