PUCL Bulletin, Dec. 2000

Nobody Hid This Crime: The Police Open Fire in Naidu.Com
-- By Vijay Prashad

This crime was committed under the shadow of the State Assembly in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh). For three quarters of an hour the guns of the police tore through 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, Chandra Babu 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 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 rollback 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 BJP 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 is 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.

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. 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, 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 salwaar. 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 of rupees from the moneylender in the village to buy a pump. But the ground water level in our village is very low. The richer people including our neighbour have 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 moneylender 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 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 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.

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