The Communist Party of India -Maoist, which is still reeling from the loss of its two senior leaders Shakmuri Appa Rao and S Kondal Reddy alias Tech Ramanna a week ago, has suffered yet another blow on Friday. The party's senior most leader and politburo member Azad alias Cherukuri Rajkumar has mysteriously gone missing and the organisation has alleged that Rajkumar was caught by the Special Investigations Bureau of Andhra Pradesh police and his life was under grave threat.
The Maoists have threatened of reprisals, if any harm is comes to Rajkumar and said that the responsibility will lie with the United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Two CPI Maoist leaders Gudsa Usendi and Pratap said that Azad was missing since March 11, when the police caught two other senior leaders Appa Rao and Kondal Reddy. "We lost contact with him since then", they said in a statement adding that on March 11, Rajkumar was to meet Appa Rao and both of them were scheduled to visit Dandakaranya forest.
While CPI-Maoist has strongly demanded that Azad should be produced in the court immediately, the Director General of Andhra Pradesh police RR Girish Kumar has dismissed the Maoist claims about Azad as mere speculation. "He is not in our custody," he said.
Usendi said that the Maoist leaders were being systematically targeted by the government as part of operation Greenhunt.
"While Comrades Apparao and Kondal Reddy were killed in cold blood in two separate fake encounters, Comrade Azad's arrest has not been declared till now. We are afraid that police officials are torturing him in secret chambers and a conspiracy is underway to eliminate him physically," he said.
The CPI-Maoist has called for 48-hour long strike in six states on March 22 and 23 in protest against the killing of its top leaders. The strike has been called in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa, three districts in Maharashtra (Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur) and one district-Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh.
Meanwhile in a related development a group of prominent and concerned citizens in New Delhi demanded that Azad should be produced in the court immediately and Andhra Pradesh police should not be allowed to kill him.
The statement issued by writer Arundhati Roy, supreme court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, poet Vara Vara Rao and others said that there was strong possibility that Azad has been kept in illegal custody by the Andhra Pradesh police.
"We demand that Azad be produced before a court of law as per the legal requirements, if there are any cases pending against him, or should be immediately released. The Union Home Minister P Chidambaram must not allow Andhra Pradesh police or any others to kill the CPI-Maoist spokesperson Azad, and produce him in a court of law. We demand that the Central Government immediately halt its war on people named Operation Green Hunt, and initiate a dialogue with the concerned organizations", it added.