People’s Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the killing of Telugu Desam MLA, K. SarveswarRao, and a former MLA, Silveri Soma, in Liviriputtu in Dumbriguda Mandal of Vishakhapatnam district on September 24, 2018 allegedly by members of the CPI (Maoist). As per news reports, the incident happened when the two politicians were returning to Araku and their vehicle was intercepted by a slogan shouting group of Maoists, and the weapons carried by the personal security officers of the two were snatched. The group allegedly held a discussion with the two politicians over their role in illegal mining in the area and asked them to stop mining in the former Vishakhapatnam Hill Tracts Agency area (which includes Araku valley, Dumbriguda and other mandals) and as it was affecting the lives and livelihood of Adivasis. According to eye-witnesses, as an argument ensued between the two sides, the Maoists, tied the hands of the two politicians, ordered them to walk a distance and shot them from close range.
The context of the killings appears to be linked to Rao favouring bauxite mining and for having stoked a controversy over issuing mining licences to close relatives. Rao owned black basalt quarries and ran a stone crushing unit in Guda village in the Araku Valley region. While the Adivasis residents have been protesting over the pollution caused by the mines, Rao’s quarry lease was extended to 2027 by the government led by the TDP (Telugu Desam Party), the party he had defected to in 2016. Soma was a political rival-turned friend of Rao as he had been defeated by Rao in the 2014 elections on a YSR Congress Party ticket.
PUDR believes that even while the two politicians were controversial as they had allegedly used their political position to seek profits from indiscriminate exploitation of bauxite quarrying at the risk of residents, killing unarmed civilians is a dastardly act. At the time of their killing, the two politicians were unarmed. Killing unarmed civiliansiswholly outside the acceptable conduct of those who claim to espouse a more pro-people ideology based on democratic principles.
What makes matters worse is that the government too views the ‘Maoist issue’ as one solely of ‘security’ and ‘law and order.’ Hence its intervention has been increasingly militaristic in nature. This has led to the stationing of huge numbers of paramilitary personnel, associated instances of human rights abuse that threaten the very existence of the local people, who are among the most marginalised of Indians. The present incident underlines the urgent need to look upon this as a political issue with deep social and economic roots.
PUDR reiterates its strong condemnation of these killings and urges the CPI (Maoist) party to desist from such actions and to show humanitarian restraint while dealing with their opponents. PUDR also urges the governments at the centre and the states to respect constitutional norms and frame policies to seek a political solution.
Shahana Bhattacharya and Sharmila Purkayastha
September 25, 2018