SITTING a few feet from the plywood coffin that held the body of her son, Kandula Sirisha a.k.a. Padma showed little emotion. It was with an effort that Padma, wife of Maoist leader Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias RK, was holding back her tears at Malkangiri district police headquarters Wednesday. When she was finally shown the bullet-ridden and decomposing body, Padma, 46, could no longer hold the tears back. “All these years, I lived in fear of hearing this dreadful news one day,” she sobbed.
Her son Munna alias Prithvi alias Shivaji was an area committee member of Malkangiri’s “cut-off area”. He had been killed Monday with 23 others — four more Maoists were killed the following day — in an operation by a joint team of Andhra Pradesh’s Greyhound cops and Odisha police.
Padma, once arrested for Maoist links herself, now lives in Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, and tailors clothes for a living. “There was a time when I would check the papers and TV every day for news of any encounter. It became so stressful that after a point I stopped watching TV,” she said. When she heard the news Monday, she “almost fainted”, she said. Munna was an intermediate student when, in 2009, he joined his father, a central committee member. “I got married in 1988, Munna was born the following year, and my husband left the family in 1990,” Padma said.
“It never occurred to me Nunna would leave,” she said. “He was very fond of movies. His favourite was Chhatrapati starring Prabhas, which is why his party name was Shivaji. He loved dancing too.”
In 2010, Padma travelled to the forests of Narayanpatna block of Koraput planning to meet her son and husband. She was arrested at Semiliguda block, following a tip-off to by Odisha police from Andhra police. She was released in March 2011 as a trade-off for the release of then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna, who had been abducted. “Since then, I never met my son. Two years ago, he sent me a postcard asking me not to worry. He wrote, be happy,” Padma said. “I am proud of my son. He wanted to save people in distress.”
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With her son now gone, Padma worries about her husband, who is ailing. “He is 60 now and I want to be with him, take care of him.”
They hoped it wasn’t true. Many families had lived in the same fear as Padma. An aunt, a brother, a father or a wife of least 10 other Maoists turned up at the police office, hoping their worst fears wouldn’t turn out to be true.
Damayanti, wife of senior Maoist leader Bakuri Venkata Ramana Murthy alias Ganesh, alleged Andhra police used to spread false news earlier that he had had been killed. “When I heard it again, I thought it was a planted story,” Damayanti said. “We are poor people, we can’t travel every time to check.”
S Narasimha, elder brother of Maoist leaders Chemmala Krishnaiah alias Daya, travelled from Nalgonda and said his family too had lived in fear of this news one day. Devendra Duvasi came for the body of his mother Latha, an area committee member. Her father Duvasi Shankar alias Mahendra is a Andhra-Odisha border committee. “I last saw my father 15 years ago in Medak and last spoke to him 10 years ago. My mother joined the party five years ago,” said Devendra, after he identified his mother’s body.
Prabhakar Kapukka alias PKM’s wife, who incidentally is also called Devendra, came for his body. They had married 12 years ago, while he was studying civil engineering in Warangal and she in a local college. Prabhakar joined the Maoist movement two years ago and became a divisional committee member. “It was only yesterday I was told cops have identified my husband among the dead,” she said.
The family members were accompanied by revolutionary poet Varavara Rao and Padma Kumari, whose Maoist husband Suresh had been killed in 1998. Rao said, “The Andhra Greyhounds have killed party members in cold blood. It’s time Naveen Patnaik stopped transgression of Andhra police into Odisha areas.”
By evening, the bodies of seven Maoists had been 7 bodies while two more families were on their way. Police officials said they have identified 14 of the 28 bodies so far. “By tomorrow morning, if no one comes forward to claim them, we will bury the unclaimed bodies as per NHRC guidelines” said Malkangiri SP Maitrabhanu Mahapatra.