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Hunted Chasing A Dream

By Raja Jaikrishan

10 July, 2010

Last night a man died or rather we heard of his death
The day ended as suddenly as it began
Four children without father lying frightened in bed
The world seems suddenly very large and odd, blue and cold
Endlessly without a door or windows
Full of shame and wilting hope

As I read these lines from Prayer to Krishna by Susan Visvanathan my thoughts went back to the news item which announced the killing of Cherukuri Rajkumar, alias Azad, the spokesman for the CPI (Maoist).

The killing by and of Maoists has become a routine. It has ceased to awe and surprise the routine-bound law-fearing society. They are not in a position to discriminate between the violence unleashed by the system and the state and the armed response of Maoists. Many intellectuals agree with their prognosis but chicken out on the cure. Some of them bridle their thoughts fearing state reprisal.

But then there was the curious Hemachandra Pandey who got killed for being witness to Operation Greenhunt for ‘security risk ‘like Azad. Being a journalist he would have written about it. There would be predictable comments from Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt and other sharp-tongue media personalities followed by Home Minister P.Chidambaram.

In order to prevent all this to happen Pandey was silenced with another shot from the para-military gun.

Babita, his social activist wife cried hoarse that her husband was a journalist and not a Maoist. How naïve of her to expect the security forces to make such a distinction in a combat zone. It is not the first instance that a journalist who knew more than the comfort of the authority has been killed. This happens in totalitarian regimes or military dictatorships is only a half-truth. This also happens in democracies, including India.

Going by the web copies of Pandey’s articles he seems to have been inspired by Javed Akhtar's lines:

When oppression will not be tolerated,
When homes will not be burnt down,
When blood will not flow on streets,
When eyes will not be filled with pain,
….that day shall come.

The latest article Pandey wrote was published on July 2, the day he was killed,

in Rashtriya Sahara. It dealt with the world food crisis in the light of government policy of selling agricultural land at cheap rates to investors.
Babita produced another article published in Nai Duniya, whose editor, Alok Mehta, distanced himself from Pandey saying that “no such person ever contributed or reported for any edition of the paper’’.

Pandey ignored the PC’s threat of booking Maoist supporters under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. He should have known that the police use the same bullets for Maoists and their supporters.

No inquiry will answer why was Azad killed. As a party spokesperson he did his job well. He articulated the party line to the unsympathetic national media. For straight thinking home ministry not only his words but also his being were threat to national security. According to them, he had ceased the basic right to survive.

His comrades new that police informers were tailing him. Even he must have sensed it in shadows of the jungles. But he had the job to do: To reach out to those who were willing to listen. Killing Azad at a time when Home Minister P. Chidambaram had approached Swami Agnivesh to broker talks with the Maoist is a treacherous act. The Swami said Azad's killing was a big blow to the proposed peace dialogue that was being chalked out.

'He was going to finalize the peace talks date with his comrades when he was detained and killed along with journalist Hemant Pandey.

Agnivesh said Chidambaram handed him a confidential missive May 11, calling upon the rebels to declare a 72-hour ceasefire and start the talks process. 'I conveyed this to the ultras and Azad gave me a letter May 31 through some of his contacts for the home minister.

'The Maoists expressed their eagerness to join the talks but demanded mutual ceasefire, release of all their top leaders, troops withdrawal and halting of Operation Greenhunt,' he said.

However, when Agnivesh met Chidambaram again, he regretted that the Maoists had not responded to his 72-hour ceasefire offer.

'On the basis of my discussion with the home minister, I wrote to Azad urging him to appreciate the home minister's gesture and fix a date for the talks.'

Agnivesh said he then went to Australia but was shocked to learn on his return that Azad was killed in a gunfight. The social activist added that he almost felt guilty for Azad's death.

'I feel guilty of Azad's untimely killing. I think as Azad was keeping regular contact with me to hold peace talks with the centre, that's why he died so early,' he said.

In the guilt of Swami Agnivesh is guilt of the entire civil society has been damned. Susan’s poem Event of War says:

The ways of living
Ate the important texts of tomorrow
There will be ash not sacred or sublime
And we will huddle in houses
Like in an HG Wells story
When it is over there will be many of
Us toothless
Rip Van Winkles
Without a dream.
Out of the dark wombs
Of death
Will arise a generation that has
No sense of future…