Andhra Pradesh Police dealt a major blow to the Communist Party of India-Maoist when Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad -- the banned outfit's second most important leader and central committee member -- was killed in an encounter in Adilabad district on Friday.
Adilabad District Superintendent of Police P Pramod Kumar said two Maoists were killed in an encounter in the wee hours of Friday in Jogapur forest area in Adilabad district.
"One has been identified as Azad, but the other is yet to be identified," he said. Unconfirmed reports, however, said that the other slain Maoist could be Chandranna, another senior state leader.
Police recovered an AK-47 rifle, a 9 mm pistol and 2 kit bags from the scene of the incident.
The encounter took place between 1 am and 3 am during a routine combing operation by the police.
Azad, an M Tech degree holder from Warangal regional engineering college, had been with the Maoist movement since the last three and a half decades and had the reputation of being an expert strategist. He was an accused in the killing of Congress legislator C Narsi Reddy along with 10 others in Mahbubnagar district on August 15, 2005.
Apart from being the central committee member, he was also the member of the Politburo, the high policy making body of the organisation. He had joined the movement during his student days and led Radical Students Union during the Emergency.
Interestingly the CPI Maoist had earlier said that Azad had gone missing on March 11, 2010 and alleged that the Special Investigations Bureau of Andhra Pradesh Police had picked him up.
It had also expressed apprehensions that he would be killed in a fake encounter. But a week later, the organisation withdrew the statement stating that he had reached a safe place after remaining untraceable for a week.
Azad is the third most important Maoist leader to be killed by the Andhra Pradesh Police in less than a year. Maoist central military commission member Patel Sudhakar Reddy was killed in an encounter in Warangal district in May last year while state committee member Shakamuri Appa Rao was shot dead in an encounter in Prakasham district on March 12.
Meanwhile, CPI-Maoist spokesman Gudsa Usendi has alleged that Azad was killed in a fake encounter.
He told rediff.com over phone, "Azad was to meet a courier, Sahdev at 11 am on Thursday and accompany him to Dandakaranya region to participate in some programmes."
Usendi alleged that the Special Investigations Bureau of Andhra Pradesh Police picked up the duo on the way and after subjecting them to torture throughout the night killed them in a fake encounter.
Meanwhile Revolutionary Writers Association Head Vara Vara Rao has also condemned the incident. Terming it as a fake encounter, Rao said that he along with Azad's family members will move a petition in the state high court demanding that a case of murder be booked against the policemen involved in the incident.