ANDHRA PRADESH

Naxalites open fire on police cultural troupe

NALGONDA, JUNE 1. As the Congress Government is in the process of making serious efforts to create a "conducive atmosphere'' to begin peace talks with the People's War, there was an exchange of fire between naxalites and a police party in the Home Minister, Jana Reddy's native district of Nalgonda on Monday night.

Speaking to the reporters here on Tuesday, the Superintendent of Police, N.Balasubramanayam, said that naxals opened fire on a police cultural troupe (Jagruthi Kala Brindam) when it was about to enter Ajmapur village in Pedda Adisarlapally mandal between 11 p.m and midnight. An armed escort party accompanying the troupe had to retaliate in "self-defence.'' In the first encounter after Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy's Government assumed charge, the police recovered one Claymore mine (suitcase type), two tiffin box bombs, a .303 rifle and eight live rounds, a single barrel breech loading (SBBL) gun, one country-made tapancha, 38 rounds of AK-47 magazine, 31 electrical detonators, 49 ordinary detonators, a 50-metre wire bundle, a solar charger, a Motorola mobile phone handset with charger and nine kit-bags containing clothes, medicines and revolutionary literature.

About 22 naxalites are suspected to have participated in the firing, while the cultural troupe consisted of eight artistes and 12 armed police personnel headed by two SIs to provide escort to it. The troupe reached the village to perform a cultural show to appeal to the debt-ridden ryots not to commit suicide as good days were ahead of them under the new dispensation, the SP said. He also appealed to the naxalites to help the Government create awareness among people by joining the mainstream.

Maintaining that the exchange of fire would not have a negative impact on the peace process, Mr.Balasubramanyam, said: "The situation in the district is very much conducive for peace talks. We are not conducting raids, though we have specific tips on the naxals' movement. We wish the talks are held in a peaceful atmosphere and we would be more than happy if a peaceful settlement is found.'' The SP said that the Police Department would go ahead with its cultural programmes in villages. The ASP (Operations), Viswa Prasad, was also present at the press meet.