The outlawed Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has claimed responsibility for killing senior Bastar journalist Sai Reddy (51).

In a statement, the powerful South Regional Committee (SRC) of the Maoists has alleged that Mr. Reddy closely worked with the police to dislodge CPI-Maoist in south Bastar. That is why the people have awarded death to Mr. Reddy, the four page statement said.

However, the press release, signed by SRC secretary Ganesh Wike, has also stated that the party is not averse to criticism and journalists writing against the CPI-Maoist. The local journalists of Bastar refuted Maoist argument that Mr. Reddy was associated with the police and criticised the statement.

The press release, dated December 10, was delivered to the journalists on Tuesday night.

Defining him as a reactionary journalist, the release claimed that Mr. Reddy helped the security forces to strengthen their base in Maoist areas over last several years.

“He (Sai Reddy) played an active role against the people’s movement in Basaguda and Usur areas over last two decades. He worked closely with the police in 1997 Jan Jagran Abhiyan (precursor to anti-Maoist, vigilante movement Salwa Judum),” the release said.

The Maoists further criticized Mr. Reddy for playing an active role in Salwa Judum after the formation of the vigilante force.

“He introduced several young men of Basaguda to Salwa Judum and also played a key role to recruit Special Police Officers (SPO),” the release said, while accusing Mr. Reddy of murder and arson.

“He also was active in establishing the spy-network in the area,” said Mr. Wike.

SRC is perhaps the strongest of the Maoist regional committees in the country with at least three administrative-cum-political divisions — south and west Bastar, and Darbha — under its command. It has no less than four (out of 12) military companies and more than a dozen platoons reporting to the divisions’ corresponding military units.

The committee was earlier headed by Mr. Ramanna, the incumbent State secretary. SRC reports to the State committee of the region — Dandakarnya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) — and operates in the lower half of southern Chhattisgarh, adjacent areas of eastern Maharastra and Telangana.

An affirmation from Mr. Wike, claiming responsibility for killing Sai Reddy, can not be wished away as any average statement, feel observers.

“The statement has to be connected to the highest decision making body — the Central Committee — if it is coming from SRC,” said an erstwhile Maoist leader of southern India, on condition of anonymity.

The Maoists, however, clarified that the party is not against Bastar’s journalists.

“It is not a policy of the party to assassinate journalists who would write against us. We do not encourage any policy to jeopardize the independence of media…rather we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to write,” Mr. Wike said.

Bastar journalists are not amused with such a declaration. On Wednesday, many journalists defined the Maoist statement as a “sham”.

“Sai Reddy went to jail under a draconian State law for being a journalist who consistently wrote against the administration; besides he often supported legitimate demands of the Maoists. It is a documented fact that he wrote against Salwa Judum and now the party is calling him a mass murderer…it is time to understand that CPI-Maoist is fast turning into a terrorist outfit from a party driven by ideology,” said a senior journalist of Bastar.

Moreover, journalists are appalled by the ridiculous allegation to punish a scribe for his purported role in the anti-Maoist movement years back.