Revolutionary poet P. Varavara Rao, a known Maoist sympathiser and defender, on Friday rubbished the official version of the killing of naxalite leader Azad in an encounter, and said he was actually picked up by the Andhra Pradesh police at the Sitabardi market place in Nagpur at 11 a.m. on Thursday, along with tribal leader Sahadev. “They were brought to Adilabad and shot dead in cold blood,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Rao said Azad was to go to Dandakarayna (in the Bastar forests in Chhattisgarh) to take study classes for Maoist rebels, and his party had sent Sahadev , an adivasi leader, to pick him up at the Sitabardi market. “We do not know what happened, but that was the last appointment Azad had.” Mr. Rao apprehended that the ‘unidentified naxalite' shot dead along with Azad could be Sahadev.

High Court's direction

Meanwhile, on a petition filed by Azad's mother, the Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the police to conduct the post-mortem at the government hospital at Mancherial in Adilabad district and to show her the body.

According to the police dossier, Azad was involved in a spate of high-profile Maoist strikes. These included the killing of Deputy Inspector General of Police K.S. Vyas in Hyderabad in January 1993; legislator Budda Vengal Reddy at Kurnool in 1998; the former Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker, D. Sreepada Rao, on April 13, 1999; Indian Police Service officer Umesh Chandra in Hyderabad in 1999; the former Home Minister, A. Madhava Reddy, in 2000, and legislator Ch. Narsi Reddy in 2005. Attempts on the lives of the former Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, in 2003 and the former Chief Minister, N. Janardhana Reddy, on September 8, 2007, were also attributed to him.

Precondition for talks

Azad had responded positively to Swami Agnivesh's efforts to organise talks, but insisted on the precondition that the Centre should lift the ban on Maoists and release political prisoners. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had responded by writing to Swami Agnivesh. Analysts said that with Azad's death, the efforts initiated by civilian groups to bring Maoists and the Central government to the negotiating table are likely to come to naught.

The Hindu had published a detailed interview with Azad in the issue of April 14, 2010. “A ceasefire will create a conducive atmosphere for talks,” he had said in one of the written answers he had provided to the newspaper.