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Nobody Hid This Crime: The Police Open Fire in Naidu.Com


Vijay Prashad

This

crime was committed under the shadow of the State Assembly in Hyderabad (Andhra

Pradesh, India). For three quarters of an hour the guns of the police tore

through the thousands of people, hundreds fell, two never to rise again. The

streets could not hide the wounded and dead. Images of the slaughter flew across

the airwaves into cables, and to the television sets of distant audiences.

Nobody hid this crime. This crime was committed in the middle of the day.

And

the US papers said nothing. Nor did Bill Clinton, friend of the man whose troops

neglected every rule that regulates their actions, Chandrababu Naidu, Chief

Minister of Andhra Pradesh, also known as Naidu.Com, King of the Indo-Internet

of High-Tech Hyderabad.

For

three months this state in India has been engulfed with struggles led by a vast,

and novel coalition of the Left. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) joined

with their Left Front partners the Communist Party of India, and both in turn

made common cause with two Maoist (or Naxalite) outfits, Communist Party of

India (Marxist-Leninist) and the CPIML (New Democracy). To top it off this Left

ensemble allied with the Congress Party (that tired and tattered former monolith

whose path down the right was well-crafted by the IMF in the early 1990s). The

Left demanded a roll-back in the rates for power (electricity), which had been

raised through the roof by the ruling Telugu Desam government (who are in a

rather tenuous alliance with the Hindu Right in New Delhi). The government was

obdurate. Too much is at stake, since the state government has vested its fate

in the hands of a kind of Cyber-Structural Adjustment: in 1996 the Andhra

Pradesh government signed an agreement with the World Bank called the Andhra

Pradesh Economic Restructuring Project. There is nothing special about Andhra

Pradesh in here, since it is the same old tonic, the same tired medicine from

the discredited quack. It asks for the government to withdraw services from the

water and power sector and to reduce government employees. The task was to

privatize electricity generation and distribution. In February 1999 the World

Bank and the Naidu government signed a five year agreement to get the state Rs.

40 billion ($880 million) in five installments in return for a 15% increase in

power rates per year. Since Naidu up for election, the World Bank agreed to

postpone the measures till after the vote (so much for free elections) and now

consumers are hit with at least a 100% hike in fees per unit of power. The

parallel is with the Indian state of Maharashtra, where the private power

company is that old US giant, Enron (I have written about this nexus in

<People’s Democracy,> and the article is available at the Corporate

Watch website).

On

24 March 2000, Big Bill met Naidu.Com and told him that ‘the Andhra Pradesh CEO

was very much known in the US and very much admired.’ He praised Naidu.Com for

his reforms and said that ‘little wonder that Hyderabad is now known as

Cyberabad.’ During their mutual love fest, and after his very brief stay in the

city, Big Bill noted that ‘if you look at the example of this city and this

state, you will realize that good governance is also necessary,’ and ‘the Chief

Minister’s role in accomplishing this is evident.’ What must these people mean

by ‘good governance’? Yes, the Internet monopolies have flocked to Cyberabad,

but not with the same numbers as these have gone to nearby Bangalore (in the

state of Karnataka). But the social indicators in Andhra Pradesh are abhorrent

and the ‘reforms’ seem to only produce social misery for the people, many of

whom came out for the agitation led by the Left on August 28, 2000.

And

that’s when the police opened fire. No warning, no shots in the air, just half

an hour to forty five minutes of gunfire toward and around the protestors. This

is ‘good governance’? (By the way, the state authorities intervened with cable

operators to remove the segments on the police firing from television. More

‘good governance’?) The people marched toward the state assembly, with an

agreement to remain peaceful. Women’s organizations led the march, and in a

report from the All-India Democratic Women’s Association (www.aidwa.org), it

becomes clear that the police was ruthless. One woman, Mamta, noted that ‘the

male police pulled my kurta [shirt] right up and tore it. I was lifted by them

and thrown on the [barbed] wire [fence].’ Another, Devi, noted that ‘the

[police] men surrounded me and started pulling my clothes. I protested. They

used filthy language and said we will teach you to come to demonstrations and

tore my kurta and pulled my salwar [top-cloth].’ This is the state that brags

about the ‘empowerment of women’; not in evidence on August 28th.

When

the police blocked them, the people began to court arrest. Things went awry. The

bullets started to fly, and two men lay dead. One of them, Vishnu Vardha Reddy,

was a CPM activist. I quote from the AIDWA report about him: ‘Vishnu Vardha

Reddy was targeted and killed by the police. He was 23 years old. This is what

his mother Durgamma said, "Vishnu was a gentle boy. He was working in a

factory called Aquapure earning about Rs. 1500 rupees a month. We come from

Tufran village of Medak district where we have a little land. We had to come to

Hyderabad to stay with Vishnu as my only other son Anji Reddy who was older than

Vishnu was killed in a traffic accident a month and a half ago. I do not know

whether it was an accident or whether he committed suicide. He was very

disturbed. He had taken a loan of a lakh [100,000] of rupees from the money

lender in the village to buy a pump. But the ground water level in our village

is very low. The richer people including our neighbour has a more powerful pump

at 225 feet which pulls all the water. My elder son had to dig twice to get the

water but the pump burned. He said he was ruined. One day he had gone out for

some work. Only his dead body came back. He left behind his wife and two little

children. We could not stay in the village because the money lender wanted the

money. So we came to Vishnu. He used to work very hard and then he used to do

work for the other workers. He used to tell me ‘we should do good work for the

people.’ On August 28th he went as usual. I did not know that he was going for a

demonstration. But later some people came to us and said amma [mother] come

quickly your son is hurt. But he was not hurt. He was dead. They killed him,

they killed my gentle son." Vishnu did not threaten anyone’s life. He did

not indulge in any violence. He was shot dead by the police during the

indiscriminate firing mentioned above. The Government has refused to give his

family, of which he was the only earning member, having lost his brother only a

month earlier, any compensation. This is an urgent issue which needs to be

addressed.’

Indeed,

it needs to be addressed, both in India (as it is by the Left) and in the US

(which emboldens people like Naidu against the wishes of the people). Is the US

content with the propagation of this kind of ‘democracy’? On the bridges to the

21st Century, lie the bodies of the people of Hyderabad. We are responsible for

this, as much as the oligarchy which now rules the state. And now in San Diego,

California, angered struggle against a 300% increase in power rates show us how

these fights are more than about solidarity. Private power (in both senses of

the term) is killing us. And nobody is hiding this crime.

If

you are interested in helping Vishnu’s family, contact AIDWA at All India

Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), 23, Vital Bhai Patel House, Rafi Marg,

New Delhi-110001, India, Phone : 3710476; Fax: 371-6515; Email: [email protected]