Murder and Maoist rationalisations

BY JAVED IQBAL| IN Media Freedom | 29/12/2013
One doesn't need to be a state apologist to find something extremely perturbing about just another murder of an unarmed man.
JAVED IQBAL on the killing of Sai Reddy. PIX: Sai Reddy (left)

The Quiet Man: Sai Reddy (1962-2013)

The murder of the man who kept quiet, for reasons best known to him, reasons we could only guess; killed for reasons that are not justifiable in accordance to any decent human law.

The second killing of a journalist this year by the Maoists in Bastar is further revealing a pattern in arrogance, hypocrisy, and a roaring of silence over endless streams of noise. One doesn’t need to be a state apologist to find something extremely perturbing about just another murder of an unarmed man. Nor does one need to be a Gandhian, or a revolutionary, or an armchair intellectual drowning in anxieties about growing fascism. A man was killed again, an oft-repeated sad truth of Bastar, and there must be a further engagement with the idea of killing informants: which the Maoists use as their own justification of murder, as the state would do with ‘national security,’ or ‘development’.

‘National security’ is ‘informant’ and ‘informant’ is ‘national security’. Rationalisation of murder is murder itself. We’re stuck in a time-warp of redundant language, and I often wonder how many times must the same thing be repeated until it is the truth, as an edge of an axe, or a meaningless epitaph for a life that disappears to the sound of nothing.

It has become superfluous that every justification of murder and atrocity by the Maoists only seem to be in relation to state atrocities: ‘We’re sorry we burnt a train, but your government burns more trains,’ ‘We apologise for killing bystanders, but Mahendra Karma was a monster ’, ‘We don’t really apologise for killing a Salwa Judum foot soldier because the Salwa Judum has burnt, looted, murdered and raped countless adivasis since 2004.’ Somehow it seems impossible for any introspection when one lives in relation to the violence of the ‘other.’

Sai Reddy, 51-year-old journalist of the Hindi daily Deshbandu, was killed on his way from the Basaguda market on December 5, 2013. A note by the South Regional Committee of the CPI(Maoist) claimed him to be an informer, a ‘reactionary journalist’, a murderer, a recruiter. But the fact of the matter is that he was no Mahendra Karma, nor was he a Brahmeshwar Singh of the Ranvir Sena, who stood by his politics of bludgeoning to death countless Dalits who stood up for their rights in Bihar, whether it was in Bathani Tola or Laxmanpur-Bathe.  

Mahendra Karma was killed in retaliation for his politics, his identity, and the opportunism of his kind, those ‘other’ adivasis, a contractor class to which he belonged till his last breath. Brahmeshwar Singh who was executed on the street by two riding pillion on a motorcycle, was the unofficial murderous prophet for the landlord Bhumihars.

Sai Reddy was a quiet man, who kept himself out of controversy, and often avoided meeting outsiders, and if he did, he wouldn’t say what was already known. He faced the wrath of both a state that had charged and arrested him with the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act in 2008, and the Maoists. His house in the town of Basaguda was burnt down in 2006. It was a block which was emptied and burnt down, in response to a Salwa Judum rally that led to killings and rapes in the nearby interior villages. That incident further led to an enraged adivasi population and the Maoists attacking the block headquarters of Basaguda, which was mostly populated by non-adivasis and big farmers, leading to the death of four people.   

It was in 2009, that this block was rehabilitated after Supreme Court orders, and on June 28, 2012, another massacre by the security forces was perpetrated in the village of Sarkeguda, a walk away from Basaguda. In 2009, I would watch Sai Reddy’s mother walk through the remnants of their broken down home, while others started to rebuild their lives, pledging that they would rather die at the hands of the state or the Maoists, than leave again. But Reddy’s family knew that it wasn’t safe to live so far across the Talperu river, the unofficial line of control, lands that the CRPF would refer to Pakistan, where on some nights abuses were hurled across the waters by passing Maoist cadres and the CRPF watchtowers: ‘M********d police’ vs. ‘M********d maovadi.’

That was 2009. Sai Reddy lived and worked with an axe over his head. What justifies a hit list, how does one get himself off it once he is on it? If Reddy felt the only way he could live on a hit list, was to deny the Maoists an agenda, would it not then be understandable if he even was an informant, or anti-Maoist? It doesn’t even matter. For Reddy had just recently begun to start talking about rebuilding his home at Basaguda, and a marked man doesn’t travel cognito through a war zone.

The press release issued by the Maoists after his death would go on to accuse Sai Reddy of recruiting Special Police Officers, of arson, murder and of creating a spy network. If that was true, then Sai Reddy was the bravest journalist in the subcontinent, for unlike the people who actually recruited, murdered and created spy networks, who roam around with large entourages of armed men in Boleros and Sumos, Sai Reddy would walk alone, work alone and move alone. More so, did any of Reddy’s actions lead to the killing of innocent adivasis in Bijapur? Did the party ever try to engage with Reddy? If it did, why is it not mentioned in the Maoist communiqués justifying his murder?

Furthermore, is there any evidence to support that he was a threat? Every local journalist is usually an anti-Maoist reporter, because they live in the other side of the Stockholm Syndrome, in areas under control by the police, under their watchful eyes. What reports or information did Sai write or report that led to his murder, when everyone has to lie or keep quiet out of fear? Did his reports about local health and corruption bother the Maoists? His reports about development needs, were they reactionary? If Sai Reddy was another journalist who wrote about the cosy and invisible relationship the Maoists held with contractors, does it justify murder? Was Sai Reddy also being blackmailed out of a contract he held? Was it just another renegade local group that killed him for profit?

The Maoists are probably not going to stop killing people they deem informants, but they should try and be a little more intelligent or imaginative about bumping off journalists: ‘Javed Iqbal, was killed by our Dalam because he was a dolt, and we wanted to save the Chhattisgarh police the trouble.’ But the killing of Reddy is filled with nothing but lies and deadly clichés that relegate human beings to statistics, and outrage to a deafening disgust.

After the murder of a journalist, it makes no sense to hear this from their statement trying to justify his death: “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 the media … rather we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to write.”

What’s the point of freedom of speech if you don’t respect the right to life?

Read the PUDR statement here: http://www.indiaresists.com/pudr-condemns-killing-of-media-persons-by-maoists/


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