Special Correspondent

“Khammam firing unfortunate”

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday virtually turned down the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demand for the resignation of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minster Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy suggesting it was time to apply the “healing touch.”

The party’s defence came on a day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Dr. Reddy and reviewed the situation arising out of the police firing. The Prime Minister expressed his regret at the “unfortunate incident” and conveyed his heartfelt sympathy for the next of kin of those who died in police action, a spokesman for the Prime Minster’s Office said.

Dr. Singh also reiterated the Government’s commitment to redistribute surplus land and fulfil its stated commitments to the rural poor, especially the landless.

Asked to react to the developments and the demand for Dr. Reddy’s resignation, party spokesperson Abhishek Singh said, “We don’t believe [that] on every such issue resignation can be demanded. It is time for constructive action and hardly the time to talk of resignation.”

The spokesperson described the Khammam firing as “unfortunate” but added that there were two versions including one that it was an extremist attack and also that there were police excesses.

However, he said, the State Government responded promptly by instituting a judicial probe and taking action against “perceived errant police officials”.

He said in the given circumstances it was incumbent on all parties to work and apply the “healing touch”.

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau members in Delhi met informally to review the situation and reiterated the demand that Dr. Reddy should resign. Party general secretary Prakash Karat said the party reiterates that the struggle for land would continue and be intensified in the coming days.

Party central secretariat member V. Srinivasa Rao on Monday joined issue with AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh disputing the charge that the agitators at Mudigonda had turned violent on July 28.

“What you have stated about the brutal police firing amounts to nothing but misinformation,” Mr. Rao said in a letter.

He said police lathi-charged peaceful protestors who were holding rasta roko and targeted Bandi Ramesh. He said the Additional Superintendent of Police reached the area with an anti-naxalite squad armed with AK47s and LMGs and began firing without any warning.

Several intellectuals, academicians and artistes said they were appalled by the police firing. They said the fact that firing occurred despite the Chief Minister’s instructions not to use force shows the extent of police high-handedness.

The signatories included Ashok Mitra, Amiya Kumar Baghci, Malini Bhattacharya, Sashi Kumar, Utsa Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Arjun Dev, Iqthiar Alam Khan, M.K. Raina and others.

More In: Today's Paper