by Rahul Pandita
‘Dear Swami Agniveshji…’ Thus began a small step that could have ensured long-lasting peace across India’s Naxal-affected zones, virtually half the country. That letter written by top Maoist leader Azad was addressed to Swami Agnivesh, the social activist chosen by the Centre to hold talks with the CPI (Maoist). Things were moving, and there was the optimism that after an endless cycle of violence, peace could finally be achieved. But before that could happen, Azad was killed by the police in what appears to be a fake encounter. With his death, current hopes of peace have all but vanished. Senior Maoist leader Kishenji reacted immediately to Azad’s killing, calling the ruling Congress party “a big betrayer”.
Open has now learnt from top Maoist sources that much progress had been made towards holding talks with the Government. Azad, as per these sources, was carrying Swami Agnivesh’s letter to the CPI (Maoist)’s guerilla zone in Bastar to discuss it with the Dandakaranya Committee of the party. He had already discussed it with other regional committees, and was moving fast from one place to another to expedite the talks. “This is what the intelligence agencies took advantage of, and managed to zero in on Azad,” says a Maoist leader. Azad was allegedly nabbed from the Nagpur railway station, taken to the forests of Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh (in a helicopter, believe Maoists), and shot dead in cold blood along with another person. “They had been trailing him since March, when they almost got him,” says Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of CPI (Maoist)’s Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee, where Azad was headed.