On Tuesday, Doordarshan cameraman Achyutanand Sahu was shot dead by Maoists while on assignment in Chhattisgarh. After a massive uproar over the killing of Sahu—and two other policemen— the Communist Party of India (Maoist) released a statement Friday "expressing regret".
The letter written by Sainath, Communist Party of India (Maoist), Darbha Divisional Committee, read: "As always, we ambushed the police unit as soon as it arrived at the conflict zone. At this time, the Doordarshan team was also riding with the policemen and were caught in the crossfire. Sahu's death is a matter of sorrow. We never kill journalists on purpose."
However, those living in the Maoist-hotbed of Bastar remember that prior to the killing of Sahu, two local scribes were brutally murdered by Maoists in 2013. While Nemichand Jain, a correspondent working for local Hindi dailies, was killed at Tongapal in Sukma district in February 2013, Hindu journalist Sai Reddy was killed at Basaguda in Bijapur district in December 2013.
The Maoists claimed that the victims were ‘police informers’: a familiar restrain by the Left-Wing Extremist cadre whenever they kill an innocent in an ambush or execute them during their 'court of law' called Jan Adalat. In Reddy's case, the Maoists issued a statement in December of that year justifying the killing of the 51-year-old and accusing him of working with the police to dislodge them from south Bastar.
Some journalists who have covered Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)—in Bastar or elsewhere—strongly believe that the ‘Naxal ideology has got diluted over the years’. “Maoists have given up their ideology”, a Bastar-based journalist said. “Now, they are more extortionists than rebels. That Robin Hood image no longer exists. They are no better than the terrorists. Now, they don’t even spare journalists. In 2013, they killed two local scribes after dubbing them ‘police informers’ in 2013.”
In undivided Madhya Pradesh, when the Naxals affiliated to People’s War Group (PWG) were trying to establish their foothold in Bastar's Dandakaranya forests, they contacted journalists to tell their side of the story.
“It was 1998. I, along with two local Chhattisgarh reporters, was taken to an unidentified location deep inside the jungle by a member of PWG,” the journalist told Firstpost, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We met one of their senior leaders in his fifties, who was not only unassuming in his demeanour but also quite humble. He told us about Naxal ideology, about their struggle, fight against the corrupt government and the need to safeguard the rights of the tribals.”
“It was then that the leader, who was from Andhra Pradesh, told us the military wing of the PWG received training from the dreaded LTTE cadre. He assured us not to get frightened as ‘Naxals consider journalists as intellectuals and friends, and never harm them’. That ideology seems missing now,” he added.
The statement issued by Sainath cautioned the press and election officials to stay away from conflict zone. “They shouldn’t accompany police,” the statement warned.
Naxals release a statement on Dantewada attack, saying 'DD Cameraman Achutyanand Sahu was killed after being caught in the ambush and we had no intention of targeting the media.' pic.twitter.com/bAoEQ8ScaS
— ANI (@ANI) November 2, 2018
“Basically, Maoists are anti-development,” said counter-terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj. “They want locals to remain deprived of education, better health facilities, development and modern amenities, so that they can rule over them. Anyone questioning Naxals or writing against them or that’s not suiting them—be it journalists, who the Maoists claim are ‘friends’—is the enemy.”
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Updated Date: Nov 02, 2018 23:42:18 IST