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AP: Khammam tense after police firing

July 29, 2007 15:25 IST

A strong-hold of Communist Party of India-Marxist, Khammam, continued to be in the grip of tension on Sunday as Left activists held a demonstration to protest police firing here on Saturday killing at least six persons and a stream of opposition leaders pouring in to express their solidarity.

The bodies of six victims, wrapped in red flags, were kept on a platform near the district collectorate complex, with wailing relatives sitting by their side.

Hundreds of supporters of CPI-M and CPI, gathered there, raised slogans against the Congress government and demanded justice.

A large posse of policemen stood guard to prevent any untoward incident while thousands of Left supporters from neighbouring districts were prevented from entering the town in view of the tense situation with the emotions running high.

The central party leaders Seetaram Yechuri (CPI-M) and Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) are expected to arrive in Khammam to console the families of the victims.

A condolence meeting will also be held in which representatives of various opposition parties are expected to participate.

"We will not leave the place unless justice is done," the CPI-M MP from Bhadrachalam Baburao said.

Though officials on Saturday put the toll in the firing at eight, on Sunday the number of those dead in the incident was revised to six.

The Left activists have been staging dharna since Saturday evening.

The two-month long struggle by Left parties, demanding land distribution for the poor, took a violent turn during the state-wide shut-down on Saturday when police opened fire at a mob near Mudigonda village, killing six persons, including a woman, and injuring several Left supporters.

As the incident sent shock waves across the state, the main opposition TDP demanded resignation of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy owning moral responsibility for the police firing.

"The chief minister is responsible for this brutal firing incident. He should step down," TDP supremo and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu told media persons in Hyderabad.

The government has already ordered judicial probe into the incident, transferred the Khammam district superintendent of police R K Meena and suspended additional SP Ramesh Babu.

Meanwhile, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K Chandrasekhar Rao visited the dharna site, spoke to the bereaved families and expressed solidarity with the Left parties in their land struggle.

The violence-marred shut down came a day after the talks between the government and representatives of Left parties failed to break the impasse over land distribution issue.

The Left parties have been insisting on setting up an autonomous commission to monitor implementation of land distribution to the poor.

However, the government had announced appointment of a special commissioner, within the administrative control of the Chief Commissioner of Land Administration, for the purpose.      

The state secretaries of CPI-M and CPI B V Raghavulu and A Narayana, along with several party leaders, had launched an indefinite fast here on July 22 in support of their set of demands.

After the failure of talks, the police teams descended on the hunger strike camp shortly after midnight, arrested the Left leaders and took them to a government hospital.

The pressure has been mounting on the government ever since the Left parties launched Bhooporatam (land struggle) in May last in which agitators have been forcibly occupying vacant government lands leading to law and order problems at several places.

On its part, the government had asserted that it was committed to land reforms and distribution of house sites and houses to the poor.

During the last three years, over 4.37 lakh acres of land had been distributed to the poor and the programme will be implemented in right earnest till all the eligible poor were covered, the Revenue Minister D Prasada Rao said.

However, he flatly rejected the Left parties demand for an autonomous commission to monitor the programme, saying such a move would come into conflict with the revenue administration.

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