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He called it a movement against exploitation

By Muralidhara Khajane

HASSAN, FEB. 7. The man who pleaded with the Government against repeating the Eedu incident seven months ago fell to the police bullets on Sunday. He took as many as six bullets.

He wanted to be known as Prem in the jungles, but after his death he has been identified as Saketh Rajan, author of Making History.

The killing of Saket Rajan came as a rude shock to the State unit of CPI (Maoist) as he led the movement as secretary of the Karnataka State Committee.

He was said to be the brain behind the spread of the movement to Malnad area by making an in-depth study of the plight of the people in plantations and in the Kudremukh National Park area.

On an invitation from the People's War, a team of journalists met Prem and his associates in the forests somewhere in the Western Ghats in June last. Prem was fluent in both Kannada and English.

`Perspective area'

Before speaking to journalists he appealed to them not to photograph their faces.

He told them that except details about their family, their real names and place of origin, the journalists could ask anything. He spoke for nearly five hours on his outfit's ideology, activities, approach and influence in the four districts falling in the Western Ghats in pouring rain.

He said that the "perspective area" of the People's War in Karnataka comprised eight taluks of Shimoga, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Dakshina Kannada districts.

The People's War decided to focus its activities here after studying the socio-economic conditions in more than 100 villages in the region. The study revealed that people were being exploited in these parts.

On the attempts by the Government to evict tribal people in Kudremukh National Park area, Prem said the State was keen on allowing multinationals and international drug houses to exploit the bio-diversity of the region and to promote tourism.

He spoke about the harassment meted out to the tribal people and villagers by officials of Forest and Police departments, he said that the "perspective area" was one of the strategic regions such as Andhra Pradesh, Dandakaranya, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bhalaghat in Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa.

He made it clear that the People's War's fight was against the anti-poor and pro-capitalist policies. Though the People's War was against taking up arms initially, the harassment to the tribal people and the poor forced its cadres to do so.

Unable to bear the harassment from the police and Forest department personnel, people in the KNP area, who were opposed to the eviction plan, joined hands with the People's War cadre.

By July 2003, the Government launched a multi-pronged attack by deploying forces and strengthening the intelligence network.

Dialogue

In view of the initiative taken in Andhra Pradesh for a ceasefire and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance view that left-wing extremism in the country is a socio-economic problem, Prem hoped that the State Government will not take any harsh steps.

Placing a list of seven demands before the Government, he was hopeful of a "meaningful" dialogue with the Government.

Claiming that nearly 35 per cent of the local people were helping the movement, Prem criticised the arrest of radicals by the S.M. Krishna Government during the Datta Jayanti in 2003. He also accused the Government of suppressing the democratic movements by arresting their activists and termed the Eedu encounter as a "cold blooded murder."

To a query, Prem said that though they believed in "democracy," there was no democracy in the country as the capitalists were running the show by curtailing the constitutional rights of the people. He opined that socialism was the greatest form of democracy. On the strength of the People's War, he said that "it was a poor man's army."

He recently criticised the decision to deploy the Special Task Force to "crush" their activities.

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