Friday, August 26, 2005

Police-Naxal harassment, now the bane of Telangana commonfolk

By Narendra, Warangal (Andhra Pradesh): With the Andhra Pradesh Government opting to reinforce its ban on the extremist Peoples War Group (PWG) in the wake of their recent attacks, the life of the common man in the state’s volatile Telangana region seems to have gone for a toss.

Helplessly and hopelessly sandwiched between police harassment and the threat of reprisal by Naxals, residents of the Telangana region feel they have been made scapegoats in the ongoing stand-off.

Angry villagers say that most of them are now thinking of migrating to the towns to avoid daily harassment from the police.

“Around 150 people from the villages of Kottugudam Mandal were called for a meeting by the police and were severely beaten up. The police did not even speak to them. Why do they do that ?” asked Sarwar, a villager.

According to Ravi Kumar, an advocate and a youth leader, the situation is quite grim, as no help of any kind has been forthcoming.

“Whatever is happening in the villages of Telangana district is bad. They are facing a war like situation now. The people love peace. The decision of the government is anti-people. The government should try and understand their problem,” said Ravi Kumar.

Andhra Pradesh Government had re-imposed a ban on the Naxals on August 17. The ban on Naxals was lifted in July last year.

More than 1,750 villages in five districts of North Telangana in Andhra Pradesh have been classified as extremist-affected by the police and forces were deployed depending on the sensitivity of the areas.

Though Naxalite activity had come down drastically in the five North Telangana districts—Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam—over a period of time, the People’s War Group (PWG) has continued to make its presence felt through its squads, especially in Andhra Pradesh’s forest areas.

Maoist or Naxalite violence is of serious concern in 12 of India’s biggest states, including eastern Maharashtra, western Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.

The Naxalites, also sometimes called the Naxals, is a loose term used to define groups waging a violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribal people.

After taking over as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in July last year, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy had extended an invitation to the Naxals to come for talks in line with a commitment that he had made during his election campaign. The State government allowed the ban on the ultras to lapse to create a conducive atmosphere. It gave them the status of State guests during the first round of talks.

These talks went on for four days from October 15 to 18, 2004, but ended without conclusion. Both sides could not reach a ceasefire agreement. The crux of the disagreement was Clause 7, according to which the Naxalites wanted permission to retain their arms, which was unacceptable to the government. So the issue was deferred to the next round of talks.

Since the peace process began, senior police officials have accused the Naxalites of moving around with arms and indulging in criminal activities like extortions, intimidation and land grabbing. On the other hand, the CPI (Maoist) and CPI-ML (Janashakti) leaders allege that the government disallowed Naxal meetings and unleashed the police forces for undertaking combing operations and fake encounters.

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