Maoists call for two-day bandh, Azad cremated

Rattled by the killing of its top leader Azad, the banned CPI (Maoist) called for a two-day strike.

Hyderabad/Kolkata/Raipur: Rattled by the
killing of its top leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, the
banned CPI (Maoist) today called for a two-day strike from
July 7 and vowed to avenge his death, prompting authorities to
beef up security in Naxal-hit areas.

The body of Azad, a senior member of the CPI (Maoist)
Central Committee who was killed in an encounter in Adilabad
district on Friday, was today cremated at Punjagutta
crematorium in Hyderabad in the presence of his family members
and a large number of people including Maoist sympathisers and
revolutionary poets- Varavara Rao and Kalyan Rao.

In a statement, the CPI (Maoist) alleged that
Azad was "murdered" by intelligence agencies of the Centre and
Andhra Pradesh government.

Hailing Azad, who was the Maoist spokesman, it said he
has become the "mind and soul of Indian revolution through his
consistent and efficient work" and vowed to avenge his death.

Stating that it was apparent that the Centre does not
want talks, Maoist leader Kishenji, who has been active in
West Bengal, called for a 48-hour `Bharat Bandh` from July 7
to protest against the killing.

Kishenji alleged that Azad was arrested in Nagpur
along with another Maoist Sukdeb and taken 150 km to Adilabad
where both were shot dead.

Apprehending Maoist backlash, authorities in
Chhattisgarh, which has been facing the brunt of Maoist
violence, have sounded an alert in the state.

Police have been asked to tighten vigil as the Maoists
may carry out a major strike in retaliation against the
killing of Azad, top officials said in Raipur.

Nearly 200 people, including security personnel have
died in Naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh in the last three

Kishenji said from an undisclosed location that Azad,
who was in his 50`s, had been proceeding to Dandakaranya for a
meeting of the CPI (Maoist) central committee when he was
caught by the police.

He claimed that the committee was to discuss
developments in the context of Union Home Minister P
Chidambaram`s recent communication to social activist Swami
Agnivesh on talks with Maoists.

Criticising the central and Andra Pradesh leaderships,
Kishenji said, "It`s apparent that the Centre does not want
talks because it is speaking of dialogue and yet killing our

Referring to the Chief Ministers` meet convened on
July 24 to decide on whether to use the Indian Air Force (IAF)
for anti-Maoist operations, Kishenji said the IAF should not
be used against poor people.

"You are Indian citizens, you should not use your guns
on the poor," he said in an appeal to the IAF.

Azad, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head,
was allegedly involved in attempts on the lives of two former
Andhra Pradesh chief ministers N Chandrababu Naidu and N
Janardhan Reddy.

Naxals blew up a bridge on national highway no. 221,
which is considered strategically important as it connects
Chhattisgarh with Andhra Pradesh, near Tongpal valley in
Bastar district.

Traffic on the highway has been affected following the
incident, Chhattisgarh police said adding no casualties were

A high alert has also been sounded in south Orissa
districts of Malkangiri, Rayagada, Gajapati and Koraput as the
slain Maoist leader was popular in those areas.

"Security personnel in these districts have been asked
to keep a tab on sensitive areas during the two-day shutdown
by Maoists," said a senior home department official in

"All the vehicles entering and leaving Gajapati
district were being checked properly," Deputy Commandant,
Special Security Battalion (SSB) K C Panda said.

Police said the ultras set afire to a mobile tower at
Chandrapur in Rayagada district last night as a retaliation to
the killing of Azad.

The ultras left leaflets at the site cautioning the
government against any operation.

Besides four districts in southern region, the
security personnel in Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh,
Sambalpur were also asked to be on alert.


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