This Article is From Jul 06, 2010

Andhra Pradesh encounter: Govt orders probe into 'scribe's' death

Hyderabad: Was Hem Chandra Pandey a journalist or a Maoist? The body of the 30-year-old was found along with that of Maoist leader C Rajakumar alias Azad after an encounter with the Andhra Pradesh police in Adilabad district early on Friday.

The police initially identified him as Maoist Sahadev. But after his photo appeared in the media, Pandey's family identified him and insisted he was a journalist and not a Maoist.

``If you don't report this, it may happen to you next...to be killed in an encounter like this. I don't have any faith in this government. They have killed my husband in a fake encounter,'' says Pandey's wife Babita,

On Saturday, a press release issued in the name of an Ajay claiming to represent the CPI(Maoist), owned Pandey as one of their own. But within 24 hours, there were two other press releases by two Maoist central committee leaders stating Pandey was a freelance journalist, not a Maoist.

"Hem Chandra Pandey was a journalist reporting in the Hindi belt, from Nainital and Pithoragarh. It is a clear case of false encounter,'' says Rights activist and journalist N Venugopal,

Pandey's wife on Monday met the Andhra Pradesh Home Minister demanding justice.

"His wife says he was working as a journalist but Maoists declared that he is one of the members of their party. So we have to inquire into details," says  Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Sabitha Indira Reddy.

Senior journalists in Hyderabad say the incident raises larger issues about fake encounters and also the freedom of the press.

The lines sometimes become blurred. Sympathy for a banned ideology presumably cannot be punished but an illegal act arising out of that sympathy can be. The larger issue that needs to be probed is the circumstances in which the killings took place.