PM ‘regrets’ Andhra police firing, to review law and order


Hyderabad/New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, arriving in Hyderabad Monday night, is expected to review the law and order situation in Andhra Pradesh following the death of six Left activists in police firing even as he expressed "regret" for the violence.

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Though Manmohan Singh is arriving on a two-day visit to review the progress made by the state in various sectors, especially agriculture, the visit assumes significance in view of the increasingly more strident demand from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for the resignation of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who leads a Congress government.

Six Left activists were killed Saturday when police opened fire on party workers at Mudigonda in Khammam district, some 200 km from Hyderabad. The activists were staging a protest as part of the state-wide agitation demanding distribution of government land among the poor.

Ahead of his visit, Manmohan Singh spoke to Reddy Monday to express "regret" and convey his condolences to the kin of those who died in police firing.

"The prime minister expressed his regret at the unfortunate incident," said a statement issued by his office.

"He reiterated the government's commitment to redistribute the surplus land and fulfil the stated commitments to the rural poor, especially the landless," the statement said.

"The chief minister informed the prime minister of the steps taken and of the decision to institute a judicial inquiry. The prime minister conveyed heartfelt sympathy for the next of the kin of those who died in the firing. He enquired about the welfare of those injured."

The CPI-M politburo, which met in Delhi Monday, reiterated the demand that Reddy should quit, owning moral responsibility for the "unprovoked" police firing on "peaceful" protestors.

The Congress fought the 2004 assembly elections in the state in alliance with the Left parties led by the CPI-M, but the communists have distanced themselves from the Congress government, charging it with pursuing "anti-people" policies.

Soon after the incident Saturday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had sought a report from the chief minister.

Sources in the chief minister's office said the prime minister would review the law and order situation in the state with Reddy and top officials immediately after his arrival.

Hours before the prime minister's arrival, Reddy held a meeting with Home Minister K. Jana Reddy, Director General of Police M.A. Basit and other top officials to review the law and order situation.

Reddy is expected to brief Manmohan Singh about the events that led to Saturday's violence. The sources said he would also explain the Left parties' land agitation that has led to clashes between protestors and police at various places during the last three months.

The state government has already ordered a judicial probe into the police firing and has announced compensation of Rs.500,000 each for the families of the victims, a government job for one member of the bereaved families and houses for the houseless.

The Left parties are demanding that cases of murder be booked against police officers responsible for opening fire. However, the home minister has turned down the demand.