S. Nagesh Kumar
Left-sponsored bandh turns violent in Andhra Pradesh
HYDERABAD: Six persons were killed on the spot in police firing at Mudigonda village in Andhra Pradesh as a Statewide bandh called by the Left parties, as part of their three-month-old land struggle, took a violent turn on Saturday.
The police opened 70 rounds of fire at Mudigonda in Khammam district, a stronghold of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, after fighting a pitched battle with the demonstrators, who earlier ransacked the office of the Revenue Divisional Officer.
The provocation for the firing was a mob attack on the jeep of the Additional Superintendent of Police M. Ramesh Babu, who rushed to the village with reinforcements.
Seven others were injured, three of them seriously, in the firing, apart from several persons who were hurt in a lathi charge. Leaders of the Left parties shifted the bodies of the victims to Khammam, 20 km away, and placed them outside the Government General Hospital. There was a tense stand-off between the police and the demonstrators at the Collectorate located opposite the hospital.
In the adjoining Nalgonda district, Communist cadres stoned and damaged 15 buses of the state-owned A.P. State Road Transport Corporation.
In all, 54 buses were damaged across the State and hundreds of Left activists rounded up during the bandh, which disrupted normal life in several parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Judicial probe ordered
Expressing anguish at the deaths, Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy announced a judicial inquiry into the Mudigonda police firing and ordered the transfer of Superintendent of Police R.K. Meena and suspension of Mr. Ramesh Babu. He said at a press conference that the police had not heeded his advice to observe restraint during the bandh. The scale of violence took the Government by surprise since it occurred in the midst of its talks with the Left parties that went on till Friday night. Both sides were expected to resume the parleys on Saturday morning.
But the Government forcibly removed CPI (M) State secretary B.V. Raghuvulu and CPI State secretary K. Narayana from their hunger strike camp here at 1 a.m. on Saturday. These leaders had been on hunger strike for six days demanding the constitution of an independent commission with quasi-judicial powers to deal with land reforms. The Government did not concede the demand saying the commission would become a parallel body in revenue administration.
Instead, it agreed to appoint a Special Commissioner to deal with land-related issues. As there was no consensus after three rounds of talks, the Left parties went ahead with the bandh that was supported by the Telugu Desam Party.