To suppress the most articulate voice of the Indian revolutionary movement, the state indulged in the brutal assassination of Cherukuri Rajkumar, popularly known as Azad, spokesperson of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), along with freelance journalist Hemchandra Pandey, on July 2. Azad was supposed to meet a courier at Sitabardi in Nagpur, Maharashtra at 11 am on July 1, to go to the Dandakaranya forest from there. The bodies of Azad and Pandey were displayed on a hillock in the forest between the Jogapur and Sarkepalli villages in the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, about 250 kms from Nagpur.
Around 9 in the morning on July 2, the television channels in Andhra Pradesh started flashing that there was an “encounter” in which two Maoists were killed. Within the next few hours it was speculated that the deceased were Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and Pulluri Prasada Rao alias Chandranna, secretary of the North Telangana Special Zonal Committee. By afternoon Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, came on air and told the channels that the second person might be Sahadev, an adivasi courier sent to fetch Azad. Then, Usendi came on air again and told that Sahadev returned safely after not finding Azad at the rendezvous. Meanwhile, friends of Hemchandra Pandey recognized the picture of his dead body that appeared in the New Delhi edition of the Telugu daily Eenadu, and Pandey’s wife Babita announced that at a press conference in Delhi. For the first few days, Pandey was passed off as a Maoist; once he was identified, police started denying that he was a journalist.
The official version of the incident goes like this: On the night of July 1, police got information that there was some movement of Maoists in the Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh border forests and a combing party consisting of police from both the states went in search of them. Around 10:30 the police party identified the Maoists and asked them to surrender, but the intransigent Maoists, numbering around 20, started firing at them. In order to defend themselves the police returned fire and the exchange of fire continued till 2:30 in the morning. The police party could not search the area due to pitch darkness and came back next morning to find two unidentified dead bodies, along with an AK-47, a 9 mm pistol, two kit bags, and revolutionary literature.
However, newspaper readers in Andhra Pradesh are sceptical: they have been reading the same story over and over again for the last forty years with changes in proper names alone. That nobody believed the official story was a commentary on the credibility of state machinery. Continue reading “Killing Azad: Silencing the Voice of Revolution”