Sunday, September 12, 2010

More on the shooting of the Indian Maoist leader Azad

From Democracy and Class Struggle;
The source is Rediff;
Post-Mortem Indicates Azad Was Shot From Close Range.Posted by Rajeesh on Indian Vanguard August 24, 2010.Top Maoist leader Azad, who the Andhra Pradesh police claimed to havekilled in an encounter on July 1, was shot from very close range, according to his post-mortem report accessed by Rediff.com's Krishnakumar Padamanbhan.Top Maoist leader Azad (Cherukuri Rajkumar), alias Cherukuri Rajkumar, who the Andhra Pradeshpolice claimed to have killed in an encounter in the forests of Adilabaddistrict in Andhra Pradesh, was shot at very close range, probably fromless than one foot, according to his post mortem report, accessed byRediff.comThe post-mortem report stands in contradiction with the police versionthat Azad was killed in a gun- battle between 11 pm and 11.30 pm on July1 in Sarkepally village, Wankedi, in Adilabad district.After the Andhra Pradesh police claimed Azad, a member of the CommunistParty of India-Maoist central committee and politburo as well as itsnational spokesman, was killed in the forests of Adilabad district,the Maoists claimed that he had been picked up in Nagpur a day earlier,flown to Adilabad by helicopter, and executed in cold blood along with aman named Hemchandra pandey.In May, Home Minister P Chidambaram had invited Swami Agnivesh, who hadled a peace march in Chhattisgarh in April, to mediate with the Maoistsand explore the possibility of a cease-fire, which would likely resultin peace talks with the central government.With Chidambaram's permission, Agnivesh met with senior Maoistleaders Kobad Gandhy in Delhi's Tihar jail and Narayan Sanyai inRaipur jail in Chhattisgarh to begin the peace process.He also wrote to the Maoists, informing them about the government'sinterest in a dialogue, to bring about a peaceful resolution to theLeftist insurgency that has crippled life in many districts in thecountry.Azad responded on the Maoists's behalf, expressing willingness inpossible talks with the Centre and indicating that his organizationcould think of a cease-fire.One sticking point was Chidamabaram's insistence on a date for acease-fire, which the home minister felt would indicate theMaoist's intentions.Once a cease-fire – the duration of which could extend for threedays or six months or longer – was in place, Chidamabaram toldAgnivesh talks could begin.In late June Agnivesh wrote again to Azad, suggesting three likelydates in July when the cease-fire could go into effect.Azad was carrying Agnivesh's letter with him the day he died.There are other discrepancies in the police inquest and the FirstInformation Report, which too was accessed by Rediff.comAccording to the post-mortem report, the first bullet, which killed Azadleft `a one centimetre oval-shaped wound with darkening burnt edgespresent at the left second intercostal space' and exited `atthe 9th and 10th intervertebral space, lateral to the spinal vertebraeon the left side'.This raises two key aspects regarding the shot that killed Azad:First, according to doctors and experts, such darkening edges in theentry wound happens only due to burns caused by a bullet fired from veryclose quarters, mostly from less than a foot.Second, the intercostal space is the part between the two ribs. Theintervertabral space is the part between the two vertebrae. This meansthat the bullet hit Azad high on the chest and exited through the middleof his back.For this to happen the bullet must have been fired from above the victimat close quarters.But according to the first information report, the police was firing atAzad, who they said was on a hilltop, from a distance and from below.The FIR says Azad, accompanied by 20 to 25 Maoists, opened fire on thepolice from the hilltop, after which the police retaliated, killing Azad and Hemchandra Pandey.The Andhra Pradesh police, however, denied the fake encounter theory andmaintained that it was a genuine gun-battle.Regarding the darkening at the entry wound, they said burn marks happenin case of firing from a distance also."We have also checked that aspect with forensic experts. They sayit is possible that shots fired from a distance can also cause burnmarks," a senior officer gold Rediff comThe police report has a lot of holes in it, and raises many questions.The gist of the FIR (crime number 40/2010) filed by Station HouseOfficer Mansoor Ahmed at the Wankedi police station, Adilabad, at 9.30am, July 2 is:Intelligence divisions informed them that a group of 20 CPI-Maoistmembers had crossed into Andhra Pradesh from Maharashtra and weremoving about in the forest area.At 9 pm, personnel from the Asifabad police station and a specialpolice party launched a search operation in the forested and hillyregion between Sarkepally and Velgi.At 11 pm, the police team — equipped with night vision devices —spotted the Maoists on a hilltop and asked them to surrender.As the Maoists opened fire, the police retaliated in self-defence.The firing lasted for 30 minutes after which the police climbed thehilltop and halted.When they searched the area early in the morning, they found twounidentified bodies – a 50 year old man and a 30-year old manwearing sandals with an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol lying by theirrespective sides.1. If, according to the FIR, the Maoists were on a hilltop —which strategically means the Maoists had the terrain advantage —how was Azad killed by a bullet fired from such close quarters that itcaused a burn?2, The FIR is against `unknown Maoist terrorists'.But in their inquest, accessed by Rediff.com, the police have identifiedthe slain Maoist as Azad at 6 am, July 2. In fact local journalistssaid they got phone calls at 6 am from senior Adilabad police officers informing them that Azad had been killed in an encounter."The Adilabad SP (superintendent of police) called me and otherjournalists at 6 am and told us Azad had been killed in an encounter inthis area. We reached the place immediately. We searched the areatill 1 pm but were unable to locate the bodies. Then, some localpoliceman came and guided us to the location. We saw the bodies ofAzad and another person," says a local journalist.Question: If the police had already identiified Azad at 6 am, why didthey not name him in the FIR, which was filed three-and-a-half hourslater?The FIR says the police party, which was tipped off about the presenceof the Maoists in the forest, reached there about 9pm, July 1 and withthe help of night vision devices, spotted 20 to 25 Maoists.The FIR also says that after the gun-battle ended at 11.30 pm, thepolicemen reached the hilltop and halted. It says the police partyfound two bodies at 6 am when they began searching.Question: If the police had night vision devices, as claimed in theFIR, and if they had reached the hilltop occupied by the Maoists afterthe gun -battle had ended, why did they not use the same devices tocheck for hidden Maoists at that time? Why did they have to wait forsunlight to spot the bodies.?Outside of these discrepancies and questions arising out of theofficial documentation, there are a also some other pertinentquestions.4. In cases of encounters, the police are supposed to launch amagisterial probe into the matter.But in Azad's case, even 52 days after the encounter, the revenuedistrict officer, who is supposed to conduct the probe, has not evenissued a notification where witnesses from the general public, if any, are called to present themselves before the magistrate.The villagers in Sarkepally and Velgi – the place where the policeclaim that the encounter happened is between these two villages –said they saw police vehicles go to the spot on the night of July 1."We saw some vehicles go past our village. Then at about 11.30 Iheard gunshots, " said a villager who did not want to be named. "We have seen encounters here in 1997 and 2005. Those times, thepolice came during the day and we could hear gun shots throughout thenight. This time it was not like that. They came in the night and weheard some shots and tht was it."They also said there has not been any Maoist movement in the region forat least a year."After 2005, their movement thinned quite a bit," a villageelder said. "In the last two years or so, there have not been anyMaoists in the area.Kranti Chaitanya, general secretary, Andhra Pradesh Civil LibertiesCommittee, who has challenged the police in several fake encountercases, said the sizes of the entry and exit wounds clearly show thatAzad was shot at close quarters, and that it raises critical doubtsabout the police claim that he was killed in a gun-battle."Even dead bodies tell a lot of stories. In Azad's case, theentry wounds are all narrow in diameter, meaning he was fired at frompoint blank range. Had he been involved in the gun-battle and thepolice had fired from the distance that they claim, the wounds would have been bigger in diameter," Chaitanya, who recently helpedbring out a book on fake encounters, said.Activists of the Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organizations, whovisited the encounter spot and the Wankedi police station on afact-finding mission on August 21, said the encounter raised severallarger and disturbing questions."From our fact-finding, this is clearly a fake encounter," saidPrashant Bhushan, senior Supreme Court counsel. "But more thanthe incident itself, it raises several significant issues. It is wellknown that the Union home ministry was, through Swami Agnivesh, engagedin exploring the possibility of a dialogue with the CPI-Maoist. Agnivesh was talking to the Maoists through Azad.""The alleged encounter in these circumstances and at such a timeraises important questions: How could the Andhra Pradesh police's special branch, dedicated to combating Maoists, murder Azad in thismanner without the knowledge of the Union home minister and the stategovernment, particularly when the Union home ministry is said to beleading the joint offensive against the Maoists?" Bhushan asked.He said if the Union government was sincere in seeking dialogue, itwould have been "natural for Home Minister (Palaniappan) Chidambaram to express concern about the execution of the key actor fromthe Maoist side with whom he was exploring the peace dialogue.""His explanation on the floor of Parliament was that the enquiry isa state subject," Bhushan said. "This is unacceptable becausethe Andhra Pradesh state government is run by the Congress party and hadthe Union home minister sought an enquiry they could not haverefused," he said.The umbrella organization's fact finding team also raised someother questions."How did the police pinpoint the Maoists' location in a forestseveral hundred square kilometres along the Andhra-Maharashtra border? And despite 30 minutes of firing not a single police personal sufferedany injury, whereas only Azad and Hemachandra Pandey are killed –this when the police themselves say the Maoists were on a hilltop andthey were on lower ground. ," asked Gaulam Navalakha of thePeople's Union for Democratic Rights.The activists demanded a judicial enquiry into the encouinter."In any case, the central government is empowered to constitute anenquiry under the Commission of Enquiries Act, 1952. In the light ofthe significance of the assassination, which has scuttled the peaceprocess, it is imperative that the government institute a high levelindependent enquiry headed by a sitting/retired Supreme Court judgenominated by the Chief Justice of India (images)" said activistKavita Srivastava, who was part of the team as an independent member.It also demanded that an FIR be registered against the police and thecase be independently investigated in accordance with the National HumanRights Commission guidelines.Source: Rediff

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