Hyderabad: Top Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, who was killed by police in Andhra Pradesh early Friday, had apparently gone `missing` four months ago.
The politburo member and chief spokesperson of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) had gone `missing` March 12. The Maoist outfit had alleged that the Special Investigations Bureau of Andhra Pradesh Police had picked him up and it even threatened revenge if security forces harmed him.
There were apprehensions that Azad could be killed in a "fake encounter". However, Maoists issued a second statement March 21, saying he was safe.
But Dandakaranya special zone committee`s spokesperson Gudsa Usendi had informed the central leadership of CPI-Maoist that Azad remained untraceable.
He was supposed to meet Shakamuri Apparao March 12 somewhere in Maharashtra. However, Apparao and another Maoist, Kondal Reddy, were killed in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh the same day.
The Maoists suspected that the police picked up Azad along with Apparao and kept them in illegal custody. The confusion was because Azad could not contact top leaders for a week and also did not reach the base in Dandakaranya March 17. The dense Dandakaranya forest touches Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Azad`s mother Cherukuri Karuna had also moved the Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), complaining that there was a threat to her son`s life. She demanded that he be produced immediately in court.
The SHRC directed the Director General of Andhra Pradesh Police R.R. Girish Kumar to submit a report to the commission. The police chief informed the commission that Azad was not in police custody.
Police claim that Azad was killed in a gunfight with policemen around 3 a.m. in the forests near Jogapur in Adilabad district, about 300 km from here.
After Azad`s killing Friday, Maoists have alleged that the Andhra police picked him up in Maharashtra and eliminated him in a staged shootout.