WHO is fooling whom? Take the case of Cherukuri Rajkumar – also known as Azad-for long the CPI (Maoist) spokesperson and one of the topmost leaders of the organisation. He was killed in a jungle. The official version is that Azad was having a meeting with some people in a dense forest in Andhra Pradesh’s Adilabad district. On a tip-off, the Andhra Pradesh Police swooped down on them. There was a gun battle at the end of which two were killed – Azad himself, and another person who was first thought of 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 else 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. That is the official version. This has been strongly contested by not only the CPI (Maoist) but by some others, including several Human Rights activists. According to them, Azad was arrested in Nagpur on July 1, when he was on his way to Dandakaranya to meet some party leaders, his colleagues in the CPI (Maoist) Politbureau and Central Committee for – as (Mainstream (July 9-15) put it-discussing the modalities of a Ceasefire as well as negotiations with the Union Government.
According to Mainstream, “he (Azad) was then taken to Adilabad from Nagpur and killed in cold blood in the forest there in the early hours of July 2.” Hemchandra Pandey was also similarly killed in order to enable the authorities to suppress the truth (since he was a witness to the state’s perfidy)”. Mainstream, which is a reputed and highly respected leftist weekly said editorially that “we are certain that the authorities would refute the facts brought out… but, try as they can, they would not be able to shut out the truth for long….”. The weekly demanded “an impartial and thorough inquiry into the entire incident”. Famous last words. So far there has been no inquiry and one suspects there will never be one. The Government trick is to maintain a long silence and let an event pass, unhonoured and unsung.
Mainline media has other events to cover and, in any event, Maoists command no sympathy. Maoists kill people they don’t like in cold blood on ideological grounds. They can hardly expect one of them to be easily let off by the Government ever on the watch for Maoist leaders, however sound Mainstream’s concern for human life may be. This is not to condone the killing-if indeed the report is correct-but to point out that Maoist can’t expect justice when they themselves deny it to others. One admires Mainstream’s high-mindedness. Aazad apparently was trying to find an honourable way of negotiating with the government and, as Deccan Herald (July 10) pointed out, “Azad’s death, which has been hailed in some circles as a significant blow to the Maoists, might, in fact, be a severe setback to the quest for a negotiated settlement of the conflict”. His exit, said the paper “will strengthen the hand of hardliners among the Maoists (and) talk of revenge and retaliation is growing”. Actually, in the same issue, Mainstreem has published a letter written by Azad to Swami Agnivesh, setting out the terms-from the Maoist angle-of agreement with the government. Judging by these terms, one does not see how the Maoist rebellion can be so easily resolved. Azad had written from strength with a marked sense of rectitude. For any government to have agreed to his terms would have been disastrous. But the July 10 issue of Mainstream should be must reading for two reasons: One, for the three extremely well-argued arricles on the Maoist movement and secondly for an examination of recent developments in the country which had led the journal on note that “there are ominous forebodings of the country inexorably hurtling down towards yet another internal Emergency”.
Hopefully, that is a wrong assessment of the situation, though one keeps one’s fingers crossed. The truth of the matter is that the Congress seems to be at sixes and sevens with itself. The rumbling within the party are becoming increasingly loud and clear. Forget Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh. Now we have Mani Shankar Iyer behaving like a screwball, showing utter irresponsibility. His comments on the setting up of the Commonwealth Games infra-structure calls for the severest of party punishment. But, as of this moment of writing, he is going scot-free. If he has a case against Suresh Kalmadi, his duty was in drawing the attention of either the Prime Minister’s Office to the allegedly wide corruption in doling out contracts or of Sonia Gandhi. Either both have snubbed him or he has no respect for them. The continued silence of Sonia Gandhi is intriguing. There have been other sideshows going on like the war of words between Kamal Nath and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
According to Neerja Chowdhury, political editor of The New Indian Express (July 27) “It is a free-for all scenario” and does not bode well for the Congress, let alone the country at large. No matter which political party is in power, the nation must be seen to have a strong and stable government. If Ms Chowdhury is to be believed, “the buzz in the party refuses to die down that Manmohan Singh may throw in the towel in 2012 either to walk into the sunset for health reasons or to move into Rashtrapati Bhavan”. 2012 is still far away and Manmohan Singh as yet does not seem to be too tired. But the situation, as witnessed by everyone is alarming. No one seems to be in power and there are too many big mouths in the Congress who seem to be accountable to none, least of all to the Prime Minister.
The situation in the North East is in a mess. And the same can be said of Jammu & Kashmir, where the situation was, according to The Hindu (28 July) met by a 3-day cessation of publication by the local media. What it all shows is that there is hardly any government in Delhi, which is disturbing. The International Press Institute is reported to be concerned at the harassment meted out to the media in the North East but the people in the country at large must be concerned at what is noticed as lack of governance. What could-just could-lead to the imposition of an internal emergency but what is worse it could collapse of the country. It is a call for the country to wake up. Or for the people to call for fresh elections to galvanise the country. The present scenario is unacceptable. The Congress should show guts and throw out the Jairam Ramesh and Mani Shankar Iyers from the party.