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Saturday 10 December 2011

EXTREMISM A Maoist's end
Volume 28 - Issue 25 :: Dec. 03-16, 2011INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
from the publishers of THE HINDU

A Maoist's end
The CPI (Maoist) leader Kishenji is killed in an encounter with the joint security forces in the Jangalmahal region of West Bengal.

The body which the security forces say is that of Kishenji, when it was found in a forest area of the Jangalmahal region in Pashchim Medinipur district after a two-hour encounter between the joint forces and the Maoists on November 25.
IN a major breakthrough in the West Bengal government's war against the Maoists, Koteswar Rao, alias Kishenji, politburo member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), was killed in a gun battle with the joint security forces in the Kushbani forest area in Pashchim Medinipur district on November 25. Kishenji was also head of the extremist outfit's military commission, which is carrying out operations in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar.
The rebel leader, whose name spelt fear in the Jangalmahal region (the forested areas of the contiguous districts of Pashchim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia), fell in the course of a combing operation involving over 1,000 personnel of the State and Central forces.
“It was essentially good intelligence work and pinpoint information that allowed us to get Kishenji. We got to know of his whereabouts and activities from various sources, including a recently arrested Maoist leader, and with the precise information we could surround him and his aides. It also helped that the operations took place in daylight,” Manoj Verma, Superintendent of Police, Counter-insurgency Force, told Frontline.

SECURITY PERSONNEL INSPECT items from the bag found at the spot of the encounter.
Next to Kishenji's body was an AK-47 rifle, cartridges, and a hearing aid, purportedly his. Among those who were present with Kishenji at the time of the operation was Suchitra Mahato, a Maoist operative who played a key role in the February 2010 massacre of 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) in their camp at Silda in Lalgarh in Pashchim Medinipur. Informed sources said Suchitra was wounded in the encounter but managed to escape.
Kishenji's death may prove to be a crippling blow to the Maoist movement in the entire eastern region and not just West Bengal. Considered to be the most elusive of the Maoist leaders, Kishenji had a hand in every Maoist attack and killing in West Bengal since 2001. He was the architect of the rapid growth of the Maoist movement in the State and the chief planner and strategist of its activities in Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. He knew the lay of the land and the various types of terrain in the outfit's area of operation like the back of his hand and spoke the local languages and dialects as well.
“He was the heart and soul of the militant movement. He oversaw the recruitment, training and armed operations. Without him, the Maoist movement will be at a loss, at least for a while,” a police source in the region said.

KOTESWAR RAO ALIAS Kishenji during one of his interactions with mediapersons in the Jangalmahal region, in this file photograph.
The man, who had pronounced a death sentence on former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, for a while became a law unto himself in the Jangalmahal region, dispensing justice, executing common people, terrorising police stations and justifying his actions in high moral tones to the media.
In fact, his constant interactions with the media made him the face of the Maoist movement. His gaunt frame with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder, his face covered with a trademark red-and-white-checked gamchha (towel), and his reedy, nasal voice and thickly accented Bengali, had, for a while, become a fixture in the regional electronic media.
Though Kishenji had been operating in West Bengal since 2001, it was not until November 2008, after a failed assassination attempt on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee near Lalgarh, that he came into the limelight. He had admitted to the Maoists' participation, on the Trinamool Congress side, in the prolonged and bloody political turf war in Nandigram in 2007 following rumours of land acquisition, and to their presence during the violent agitation led by Mamata Banerjee, the present Chief Minister, against Tata Motors setting up a small car factory in Singur. “Our plan, very simply, is to establish a liberated area in West Bengal. We had decided in 2007 that Jangalmahal would be a guerilla area,” he told Frontline in an interview in late 2009. For a couple of years Lalgarh even became a symbol of Maoist terrorism in the country.

However, from the end of 2010, after suffering reverses in the battle with the security forces and facing stiff resistance from the local people, the Maoists began to lose control over many of their strongholds in Jangalmahal. Kishenji himself dropped out of public view and appeared only rarely to make statements to select media houses, which also served the purpose of dispelling rumours of his death or disability.
During the height of the Maoist movement in Lalgarh and its surrounding areas, the Trinamool Congress, which was then in the opposition, was perceived to be an informal ally of the CPI (Maoist) by virtue of its support to the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) – a front organisation of the Maoists. However, the relationship began to sour when Mamata Banerjee began to disassociate herself from the PCPA after her political fortunes improved. “Mamata is indulging in opportunistic politics,” Kishenji told Frontline then.
After the Trinamool Congress wrested power from the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front in the 2011 Assembly elections, Mamata Banerjee called for a “pause” of several months in the operations of the joint forces. But she did not act on her pre-election promise of withdrawing the security forces from Jangalmahal. Apparently miffed at Mamata for reneging on her word, the Maoists began to regroup after having lost their erstwhile strongholds in Pashchim Medinipur and Bankura districts.

SECURITY FORCES AT the site of the encounter.
Now confined to Purulia district in the Ayodhya Hills area, the extremists used the pause in the joint forces' operations to regain lost ground in Jangalmahal by resuming the killing of individuals; six local people have been killed since August. Whereas earlier the Maoists targeted Left Front activists, the recent murders were mostly of Trinamool Congress workers. Subsequently, when Mamata Banerjee resumed operations in Jangalmahal, the extremists, their strength and influence in the region reduced greatly, found themselves cornered.
Kishenji's death will be of particular significance to the Maoist movement in West Bengal. “Kishenji's death will have an all-India ramification. I think it will be quite a while before the Maoists are able to regroup in West Bengal. They will, of course, try to reorganise and find a replacement for Kishenji, but their area of operations will be reduced even further,” said Manoj Verma. According to him, the Maoists may change their strategy and shift their area of operation. “They may leave the plains and operate in the Bengal-Jharkhand and Bengal-Orissa borders. They may even deploy their special action teams to carry out attacks,” he said.
At the time of the shootout, the Chief Minister was in New Delhi. When informed of the development, Mamata Banerjee reportedly stated that she would have preferred Kishenji to have been caught alive.

Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra of the CPI(M), said, “While it is true that this rebel leader had been responsible for the death of many of our party members and supporters and had even issued a death sentence on our leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, his fate is no cause for celebration. My message to the Maoists is that their path of violence and killing is not the right one. The anti-national and reactionary forces utilise this for their own interest. They (Maoists) should join the anti-imperialist movement being carried out by mainstream Left forces.”
Kishenji originally hailed from Andhra Pradesh. Born in 1956 in Karimnagar, Mallojula Koteswar Rao was drawn into the revolutionary movement while doing his B.Sc. in mathematics and subsequently, in 1974, became a full-time member of the CPI-ML (People's War). In 2000, he was put in charge of the Maoists' operations in the eastern region, particularly in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.
He played a crucial role in the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) and the People's War Group (PWG) to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2004 and was elected a politburo member of the new outfit. In the latter part of the 2000s, he was named chief of the Maoists' central military commission of the People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA). Kishenji was conversant with English and several Indian languages, including Telugu, Bengali and Hindi, and several tribal dialects.

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