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Wednesday 18 January 2012

Beyond a murky encounter,killing of Mallojula Koteswara Rao a.k.a. Kishenji

Beyond a murky encounter
Kishenji’s killing will make the Maoist leadership more recalcitrant in negotiating with both the Centre and the state satraps hell-bent on looking at the issue as a law and order problem and less of a socio-political crisis.
So, one of India’s most wanted men, Mallojula Koteswara Rao a.k.a. Kishenji, has been eliminated from the Maoist theatre. There are many who are heaving a sigh of relief, there are others who argue that this is the beginning of the end of the Maoists. But arguments steeped in speculation are essentially bad arguments. They leave out the context, and are therefore myopic.
Kishenji’s death in an encounter on November 24 came even as parleys were on between the Maoists and the Trinamool Congress-led government in West Bengal. His killing was a sureshot way to ensure that the talks came to a dead end. The interlocutors trying to bring the ultras to the negotiating table put up their hands. One of the main negotiators Sujato Bhadro went on to say, “The prevailing situation in West Bengal does not allow us to carry forward the peace talks. We have expressed our helplessness and inability to the chief minister about our decision.”
What the incident ensured was that all the hard work put in by the negotiators was brought to nought. Worse, the chances of a negotiated peace now seemed as good as over. The interlocutors understood this well, and decided to pull out. They would have been in no position to convince the Maoist leadership that the government was interested in peace.
If anything, it brought the duplicitous strategy of the Mamata Banerjee government to the fore. On one hand, Banerjee had kept insisiting that she was keen on making the Maoists give up arms and return to the mainstream. And on the other, the security forces were given a free hand by her in eliminating the ultras from the Red strongholds of the state.
If this was not bad enough, the very killing itself has been controversial. Though the CRPF claimed that it had been a “clean” operation, there were grounds enough for Maoists and a number of political parties to describe it as a “fake” encounter. Conspiracy theories have abounded – from those of information of Kishenji’s movements having been leaked out as a result of infighting among Maoists themselves, to that of him having been arrested somewhere else and brought to West Midnapore to be liquidated. The more versions you listen to, the more likely you are to fall for the unanswered questions about the claimed encounter.
It gets murkier, as you look deeper into the Maoist issue.
First, the security operations in West Bengal could not have taken place without the blessings of the Centre, which had described the Maoists as the biggest internal security threat for India. Yet, all this while the Union Government has maintained a rather disconcerting silence over the issue of peace parleys. Was the Mamata govenment doing the Centre’s dirty work?
Second, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is not confined to West Bengal alone. In fact, if the CPI (Maoist) is for all practical purposes running a parallel government, it is in the state of Chhattisgarh. Therefore, holding peace talks with the militant organisation in one state, while gunning for it another makes little sense. One is not even talking of the other states like Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh here. Sounds bogus, doesn’t it?
Third, the double talk of the Mamata government was evident even as late as in September-end when the Maoists had offered a month-long unilateral ceasefire. The West Bengal took the offer with a pinch of salt. In fact, reports indicate that it viewed the overture as a sign of weakness and went in for the kill. Barring a few stray incidents, there was no largescale violence. This could well have been a tactical move by the Maoists to gain lost ground, but then in conflict resolution there are many things that need to be taken at face value. Mamata didn’t.
Fourth, the fact that Kishenji was not travelling with his four rings of bodyguards itself raises a number of questions. It also lends credence to the claim that he was possibly betrayed by his comrades. While uncomfortable questions were still being asked, it was left to American bimonthly Foreign Policy which reported that Kishenji was gunned down by a joint team of CRPF's COBRA commandos and the West Bengal Police following an insider's tip off for about Rs 20 lakh. Theories of a fragmented Maoist cadre will now flood the news space. And we won’t even know which one is a planted story, and which one is not.
Given this backdrop, there are few things that are more likely, than less, to happen. Kishenji’s killing will make the Maoist leadership more recalcitrant in negotiating with both the Centre and the state satraps hell-bent on looking at the issue as a law and order problem and less of a socio-political crisis. And as the unabated pillage of natural resources goes on in the tribal heartland of India, we know better – this is a problem, essentially, of perception.

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