India

India Maoists call for strike over Koteshwar Rao killing

Koteshwar Rao
Image caption Koteshwar Rao was a guerrilla leader for 36 years

Maoist rebels in India have called for a two-day-long countrywide strike in protest at the killing of top rebel Koteshwar Rao leader last week.

The rebels say they will disrupt traffic and shut down businesses and educational institutions on 4 and 5 December, a spokesman told the BBC.

They have already called for protests, saying Mr Rao was murdered in an orchestrated or "fake encounter".

Mr Rao was one of the rebels' most senior leaders.

The BBC's Salman Ravi says his death in police firing in West Bengal state last week was a major setback for the rebels.

In a pre-recorded statement sent to the BBC, a spokesperson for Communist Party of India (Maoist), Abhay, said the shut down early next month would focus on paralysing movement of rail and road traffic apart from asking the educational and business establishments to remain closed.

"Intelligence agencies and the security forces arrested Kishenji and killed him in cold blood after a day. They tried to show as if he was killed in an encounter," Abhay said.

Police say Mr Rao was killed after a gun battle between rebels and paramilitary forces in the Burishol forest in the Jamboni area of the state's restive West Midnapur district.

Mr Rao was cremated amid tight security on Sunday in his hometown of Peddapalli in southern Andhra Pradesh state.

His death came during intensified anti-Maoist operations in West Bengal despite the fact that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has publicly advocated a negotiated solution through dialogue with the rebels.

Mr Rao reportedly suffered temporary paralysis in June 2010 when a police bullet hit him in the knee.

Normally a regular communicator with the press, little was heard of him from then until January 2011 when he issued a statement saying he expected India to succumb to a Maoist revolution by 2025.

Latest estimates suggest he commanded at least 20,000 armed fighters. They are said to get most of their weapons by raiding police bases.

The rebels have a strong presence in more than a third of India's 600 districts, and have been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the country's biggest security threat.

A government offensive against the rebels - widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt - began in late 2009. That year the top Maoist leader and ideologue Kobad Ghandy was also arrested in Delhi.

The Maoists are fighting for the introduction of a communist state and for what they say is a more egalitarian society.

More than 6,000 people have died in the insurgency, which began in West Bengal in the late 1960s.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites