Top Maoist shot dead by Andhra police

Top Maoist spokesperson `Azad' Cherukuri Rajkumar was shot dead by Andhra police near Sarkapalli village in Adilabad district late last night.

Officials said that they raided a hideout where a meeting was going on regarding by-elections in Telangana later this month and Azad died in the exchange of fire. ``There was an exchange of fire and two persons were shot dead by security forces. One has been identiried as Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, the CPI-Maoist's spokersperson. We did not know that he was also attending the meeting,'' an official of the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) said. ``The encounter took place late last night. The other person has not been identified so far,'' the official said. Police also recovered an AK-47, a 9mm pistol and rucksacks with food. His killing comes two days after Maoists shot dead 27 CRPF personnel in Chattisgarh.

Rajkumar who was given the pseudonym `Azad' by virtue of being the Maoists' spokerson carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head. Spokespersons of CPI (Maoist) are given the pseudonym `Azad'. He was a member of the central committee CPI-Maoist.

Officials said that it is common during the rainy season for Maoists to infiltrate into Andhra Pradesh from Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. ``It is difficult to patrol the border areas during the rains. They use the opportunity to infiltrate and organise meetings. We believe that this meeting was to discuss the by-elections in Telangana later this month,'' an official said.

Born in Krishna district, Rajkumar is one of the several brilliant students who passed out of the Regional Engineering College, Warangal, the fountainhead of Left ideology in Andhra in the 1970s, and joined the Naxalite movement. An MTech student, he was leader of the Radical Students Union (RSU) for several years besides playing a key role during the Emergency years. Soon after joining the former PWG on whose behalf he used negotiate arms deals and training in handling of weapons and explosives, he went underground. However, besides a few cases of threat and intimidation he does not have a police record in AP. Since the merger of several Maoist parties to form the CPI (Maoist), he has been mostly handling political affairs of the party. He is underground since 30 years.

Rajkumar assumed several aliases including Madhav, Gangadhar, Madhu and Uday, and is one of the senior most leaders who is also close to General Secretary Ganapathi.

In March, Azad had gone missing for several days raising fears that he may be in the custody of Andhra Pradesh police or may have been bumped off in an encounter. The day he went missing, two other top Maoist leaders were killed in separate encounters-- Shakamuri Appa Rao in Prakasam district and Solipeta Kondal Reddy in Warangal district. AP police at that time claimed that while two leaders were killed in the encounters they had no idea about `Azad' Cherukuri Rajkumar.

However, a few days later `Azad' Cherukuri Rajkumar resurfaced and CPI-Maoist said he was fine.

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