//Suspense continues over fate of Maoist leader

Suspense continues over fate of Maoist leader

By Indo Asian News Service

Hyderabad, June 22 (IANS) Suspense over the fate of top Maoist leader Sudhakar continues with Andhra Pradesh Police disputing the claim of rebel sympathisers that he was in their custody even as a guerrilla was killed Thursday.

Claiming that Sudhakar was in the custody of Vizianagaram police, Maoist sympathisers and human rights groups have urged the government to produce him in court. Police, however, maintain they have not arrested Sudhakar.

Sudhakar is the Communist Party of India-Maoist's Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee secretary.

Police said they arrested one person Wednesday after a gun battle in Makuva police limits in Vizianagarm near the Andhra-Orissa border. While Maoist sympathisers claimed that the man was none other than Sudhakar, police said he was not the top Maoist leader.

Police claimed to have arrested from the area Sudhakar's uncle K. Krishna Murthy, an assistant engineer with the state-owned electricity transmission corporation, and his wife K. Uma Devi. They were allegedly working as informers for Maoists.

Revolutionary balladeer Gaddar, writer Kalyan Rao and rights activists met Home Minister K. Jana Reddy and urged him to direct police to immediately produce Sudhakar in court. They alleged he was arrested and tortured by police and could be eliminated any time.

'If Sudhakar is harmed, the government will be responsible for it,' said Gaddar.

Sudhakar was one of the three CPI-Maoist leaders who had participated in the first direct talks with the government in October 2004. He along with two leaders had come out of their hideouts in the jungle for the talks with three ministers. The meetings, however, failed and the eight-month-long ceasefire collapsed in January last year.

Rights groups fear that Sudhakar might be eliminated the way Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) Janashakti state committee member Riyaz was arrested and killed allegedly in cold blood by police.

Riyaz, who had also participated in peace talks, was killed along with three other guerrillas in an alleged gun battle with police in Karimnagar district in June last year.

Meanwhile, CPI-Maoists continued to receive setbacks. Three Maoists were gunned down by police within 24 hours.

In the latest incident in Adilabad district, an action committee member of the outfit, T. Ravi, was gunned down in the forests of Mandamarri early Thursday.

CPI-Maoist Khammam district committee secretary Jagdish and his wife Vangara Rajakka were also killed in a gun battle in Khammam district.

Seven guerrillas have been killed in various parts of the state since Friday when top Maoist leader Mattam Ravikumar was gunned down by police in Praksam district. He was considered an intellectual involved in policy-making.

More than 300 people, the majority of them guerrillas, have been killed since January last year when the eight-month long ceasefire collapsed. Maoist violence in the state has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

The Maoists claim to be fighting for the poor and farmers in villages. They target landlords and the police, who are accused of protecting the rich.

Copyright Indo-Asian News Service