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Telugu Desam MLA shot dead

By Our Special Correspondent



Paritala Ravi

HYDERABAD, JAN. 24. Unidentified gunmen today shot dead a Telugu Desam Party MLA, Paritala Ravi, and two others at the TDP office in Anantapur town of Andhra Pradesh. Eight others were injured in the attack.

As news spread about the murder, TDP workers went on the rampage in several towns, setting ablaze dozens of buses of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation. An APSRTC spokesman said 58 buses were burnt and 301 buses partly damaged. Offices of the ruling Congress and Government establishments were also attacked.

The Director-General of Police, Swaranjit Sen, said a heavy security cover had been provided for Mr. Ravi as it was perceived that his life was under threat from factions in Anantapur district inimical to him. In fact, five of his 10 gunmen were present at the time of the murder. Several attempts had been made on his life earlier, the most prominent being the November 1997 incident at Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad when a car bomb claimed 26 lives. Mr. Ravi escaped then.

Mr. Ravi was murdered inside the TDP office where he had earlier attended a meeting of the TDP district executive committee. After the meeting, Mr. Ravi came out and was about to board his vehicle when two men appeared on the spot and opened fire at the floor-level to disperse the gathering. They then pumped bullets into the MLA. Two others, who came from outside, started firing at Mr. Ravi's gunmen to prevent them from coming to his rescue. All of them later fled after hurling bombs to scare away the people.

Ravi's personal security man, M. Easwaraiah (35), died on the spot while a police gunman, Mahaboob Basha (33), died of his injuries in hospital. TDP workers chased away gunmen of other party leaders present on the spot.

They also prevented the Superintendent of Police, R.S. Praveen Kumar, from entering the party office by pelting stones and later forcibly closed all shops and establishments.

In the evening, the TDP president, N. Chandrababu Naidu, led a delegation to the Governor, Sushil Kumar Shinde, at Raj Bhavan demanding dismissal of the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Government, a judicial inquiry into the murder and handing over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The TDP also gave a call for a State-wide bandh on Tuesday.

Condemning the killing, the Chief Minister, who is touring Visakhapatnam district, promised a comprehensive inquiry into the murder.

Describing it as unfortunate, he appealed for calm.

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