PUCL, October 2003

Assassination attempt in Andhra Pradesh

Kannabiran's letter to the Chief Minister

People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Office of the National President, K.G. Kannabiran
300, East Marredpally, Secunderabad 500 023.
Ph.: 040-27730632; cell: 98483 - 03739: E-mail: kanna300@rediffmail.com


Mr. Chandrababu Naidu,
Chief Minister,
Government of Andhra Pradesh,

Dear Mr. Chandrababu,
When I heard the news of the attempted assassination and your miraculous escape I thought I should call on you and talk to you about not only the attempted assassination but also the other dimensions related to the attempt. I fully believe that the attempt should be condemned unconditionally. However, as a human rights person, I also feel that mere condemnation may appear ritualistic and may not really address the issues involved.

When the State President and I issued a statement we pointed out that there has been a phenomenal increase in CPI(ML)-PW violence, private violence, and state violence and this issue of violence has to be responded to and addressed in a manner without any bias, prejudice or preconceived notions. The attempt should be to review our ideas of governance and the initial step we suggested was to see that the retributive violence does not become a substitute for organised investigation and apprehension of the culprits. It is unfortunate that what I expected happened when my daughter Dr. Kalpana Kannabiran was threatened by an anonymous telephone caller that her two daughters would be kidnapped either from the school or home. I have never made a fuss about threats to my life which were quite a few times in the past years.

When the present threats were received my reaction was to visualize the threats received by other parents and grandparents as also the apprehensions of parents of those who have been taken into custody on the basis of unsubstantiated beliefs on the part of the custodians of law and the vigilante groups sponsored and set up by them.

One of the most important fallouts of the reign of violence which prevails in the state is that democratically elected representatives, be they MPs, MLA’s or local self government bodies are unable to move about in their constituencies in a manner as to fulfil their obligations. While the fear of being targeted for attack stalks the minds of MPs, MLA’s and others, the brutal and uncritical response of the state enforcing agencies apprehending people on mere suspicion is resulting in the abrogation of the freedoms of the people and thereby stalling all democratic debate and processes on the issue which lies at the core of the attempted assassination. The situation is made more murky by police authorized vigilante groups made up of a few surrendered naxalites directed to carry out threats to life and liberty of targeted people who are perceived as anti-government. This spiral of violence cannot be ended by beefing security for government officials and politicians as the recent attempt on you itself demonstrates. Nor is there any sense in providing security for citizens who are targeted by the state and vigilante groups maintained by them.

In the prevailing political environment suffused with violence and fear, the only sane response is to cut the umbilical cord of violence by putting a ban on all human rights violations, including encounters and retaliatory murders by state forces directly or by the vigilante groups. As a first step, please disband all the vigilante groups in the state, receiving support of the police by whatever name called.

In this context, I would like to assure you that just as in past times we had called upon the CPI(ML)-PW to abstain from abductions and violence, we will continue our effort to bring pressure on them to eschew violence and review their political strategies.

While we are happy that you and your colleagues miraculously survived the attempted assassination we are not blind to the overarching insecurity that stalks the state due to the activities of the CPI(ML)-PW and the State. This insecurity itself thrives on the social deprivation that is the lot of a majority of the population of the state. We sincerely feel that unless this social deprivation is attended to on a war footing, the disaffection engendered by it may continue to fester fuelling never ending spirals of violence.

We as members of civil society, can only place suggestions for you and your colleagues in the government to reflect on and chalk out a course of action. While you and your government have initiated many poverty alleviation programmes which may have had some impact, it seems as though they have not had sufficient impact on the real lives of the people. In this context we would like to point out what Prof. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate said:

“Poverty is not just deprivation in income/consumption/expenditure but deprivation in human capabilities such as knowledge, longevity and living standards with emphasis on self-reporting, self-esteem, participation and empowerment; the ultimate end of development is not merely economic efficiency or maximization of GDP per capita but human development and `development as freedom’ and the expansion of valuable capabilities and the realization of freedoms and human rights”.

(Adapted from Economic Theory, Freedom and Human Rights: The Work of Amartya Sen, ODI Briefing Paper, Nov.2001).

We would like to stress that realization of freedoms and human rights are not possible when poverty issues are addressed merely in terms of `alleviation programmes’. They have to be recognised as rights that people are entitled to. Acknowledgment and enforcement of these rights will alone reduce adherence to violence. We would request you to re-examine and reassess the economic programmes launched by the government in this light.

I would like to emphasise that I have all along been saying that if effective measures are taken to address social deprivation on the lines Prof. Amartya Sen has indicated above, not only will the social basis for disaffection and violence be reduced but it will also increase democratic space for debate and discussion of issues that confront people.

As part of an attempt of concerned citizens to reduce violence and increase democratic space for dialogue and resolution of differences, Concerned Citizens Committee initiated steps which led to a climate of face-to-face debate between the CPI(ML)-PW and the government. It is of utmost importance that the stalled talks are resumed. Other political parties have also similarly suggested the same.

Mr. Chandrababu, the situation now is different from previous occasions in that in the present incident, you have been personally injured. To ignore the attempt on your life and still opt for talks is difficult and challenging at the same time. While we appreciate your insistence that the CPI(ML)-PW lay down arms as a precursor for talks, we would like to appeal to you not to press this as a precondition. We cannot ignore the fact that the CPI(ML) movement in the state has a continuous history of over 35 years which has to be borne in mind when laying down the pre-condition that they should lay down arms. We are confident that once the talks proceed these issues will automatically get resolved.

Reduction of this endemic violence and restoration of democratic process calls for a high order of statesmanship. We believe that you are capable of rising to this historic challenge.

I am sending this message in advance by email so that when we meet personally we may be able to discuss issues in a more focused manner.

With regards,
K.G. Kannabiran

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