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Maoists Down, but not Out

Dr. P. V. Ramana was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • November 29, 2011

    Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishanji, who had earlier used various other aliases such Murali, Prahalad, Ramji, Sridhar and Mohan has reportedly been killed in a gun battle with the security forces, on November 24, 2011, in Burisole forest area of West Midnapore district, West Bengal. With his killing, the Maoists have suffered a second serious blow in as many years. Earlier, in July 2010, Cherukuri Raj Kumar alias Uday alias Azad, the spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist), was killed in an encounter in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh.

    Kishanji’s demise would put to rest any possibility of negotiations between the Maoists and the government in West Bengal. His killing in an encounter, no doubt a serious blow, does not practically undermine the Maoists’ capabilities either in West Bengal or at the pan-India level. However, his unique organizational ability shall be missed. According to those who have closely monitored his activities, “In the Maoist outfit, he is the founder of, and master at, the practice of organising/infiltrating mass movements and later converting them into violent struggles. He has done this successfully in many places in West Bengal.”

    The Maoist leadership took notice of Kishanji’s ability to organize and mobilise the masses during a peasant movement in 1977. At that time, he had led the movement in Karimnagar-Adilabad districts under the aegis of the Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the then CPI–M-L, in which an estimated 60,000 peasants participated. This movement evolved into what is popularly and famously known as the Sircilla-Jagityal Peasant Struggle (Sircilla-Jagityal Rytanga Poratam), and culminated in a massive rally of 35,000 people who marched into Jagityal town, on September 7, 1978. The events that followed led to the formation of the CPI–M-L (People’s War). Possibly, it is this experience that Kishanji subsequently replicated in the various areas that he had operated. He was, thus, instrumental in mobilising and organising the people of Lalgarh area. The presence of the Maoists in this region is not new. The then Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) had strong pockets of influence here. Subsequently, the People’s War, too, made its impact felt in the region.

    In the current phase of the Maoist movement in West Bengal, the first offence was registered against the then MCCI in 1995 under Crime No. 10/95, on April 15, 1995 for causing violence at a fair in Indkuri village under Raipur police station limits. Similarly, the first offence against the then People’s War was registered under Crime No. 29/2000 in Saranga police station when they behaved in a high-handed manner with daily wage construction labourers who refused to toe their line. Besides, the first act of murder was registered under Garbheta police station limits on January 21, 2001 for the shooting of Ramjan Mallick, a local CPI (M) leader.

    After having been inducted into the apex and all-powerful Central Committee of the People’s War sometime during 1994-1995, Kishanji was drafted for building the outfit in West Bengal. Thus, he had assiduously built the outfit for more than 15 years in West Bengal. In this, he began working from, and had concentrated on West Midnapore district, where he was eventually killed. With West Bengal as his base, Kishanji also spread the organisation to the neighbouring areas in Jharkhand and Orissa.

    Within the Maoist outfit, Kishanji also headed the Sub Committee on Political Education (SCoPE). He is also known to have been among the founding members of the Radical Students Union in Andhra Pradesh, which groomed several top-rung leaders like him. Besides, he also headed the Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the then CPI–M-L (People’s War) during 1984-86.

    In fact, Kishanji was among the first bunch of Maoist rebels who laid the foundations of the outfit in Dandakaranya. Within the outfit, he had married Kalpana alias Sujathakka, who is presently a member of the Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee (DKSZC). His brother, Mallojula Venugopal alias Sonu alias Bhupathi, is presently, like him, a member of the Polit Bureau of the CPI (Maoist) and in-charge of the DKSZC, within whose jurisdiction Bastar lies, in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

    The Polit Bureau, which presently comprises of eight members, is a smaller set of the Central Committee which, when last known, consisted of 21 members. A number of Central Committee members have either been killed in encounters or have been arrested in the past few years, while one surrendered to the authorities in Andhra Pradesh. Those killed include Sande Rajamouli, Wadkapur Chandramouli and Patel Sudhakar Reddy. Among those arrested include Sumanand Singh alias Sumanda, Kobad Ghandy alias Rajan, Sridhar Krishnan Srinivasan alias Vishnu, Balraj, Chintan, Varanasi Subrahmanyam alias Sukanth alias Srikanth, Vijay Kumar Arya alias Yashpal alias Jaspal and Jantu Mukherjee alias Sahebda alias Ajay.

    These numerous arrests/killings have not curtailed the Maoists’ geographical expansion, physical strength or lethal capabilities. The Maoist movement began in 1985 in Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh and then spread to neighbouring Nizamabad. Thereafter, it caught the imagination of students in Warangal. What originally began in two districts subsequently spread to 131 districts in 2001; 159 in 2004; 165 by November 2006; 185 in April 2007; perhaps, 256 in 2008; and 223 as officially admitted in 2009. According to some other estimates, the Maoists currently have a presence in 196 districts. The lethal capacities of the Maoists have also increased. When the rebels launched their movement in Naxalbari they fielded farm implements. They now field a melange of modern weapons including SLRs, LMGs, AKs, INSAS rifles and Rocket Launchers. Similarly, fatalities in Maoist-related violence have also been fairly high. Thus, as mentioned in the Rajya Sabha on November 23, 2011, 513 security force personnel and civilians were killed in the current year. In all, more than 600 persons have lost their lives in Maoist-related violence in 2o11. Besides, 1169 people were killed in 2010; 1125 in 2009; 839 in 2008; 837 in 2007; 950 in 2006, 900 in 2005, 653 in 2004; 731 in 2003; and 896 2002.

    Eventually, the quality of the cadres would determine who would emerge to leadership positions and steer the outfit in the months ahead.