Skip to main content

Mysterious death of Kishenji 'triggered' series of splits in Maoist camp in India

By Harsh Thakor*

On November 24 fell the 10th death anniversary of Kishenji, a prominent Maoist leader, he was also a poet, a scientist, and a soldier. Since his school days he dreamt of planting the seed to create new man. Born in 1954 in Peddapally town (in Karimnagar district, north Telangana), Kishenji was raised by his father Venkataiah (a “freedom fighter”, he called him) and a progressive mother, Madhuramma.
Inspired by the Naxalbari and Srikakulam movements, he became an active member of the Andhra State unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in 1974 and played a prominent part in the peasant struggles in Sircilla and Jagtial taluks of his home district of Karimnagar that were declared ‘disturbed areas” in October 1978.
Kishenji played an important role in weaving the movement in Karimnagar and Telengana and then Dandkaranya. He was one of the major architects in enabling the Peoples’ War Group. He was a principal architect of the merger of the CPI (ML) Peoples War Group with the Maoist Communist Centre of India.
In Lalgarh or Jungalmahal from 2000 Kishenji pioneered the building of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). Even as he integrated mass movement and armed militia actions, under his guidance the seeds were sown for alternative structures in literacy, health and housing and land distribution.
After 2009, Kishenji over-emphasis military work or armed squad actions. He also put the movement into a trap by forging an alliance with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool to confront the CPI-M. It ultimately led to the steady demise of the Left. Tactics of election boycott were adopted, which seemed not in consonance with people's level of political consciousness.
Tributes to Kisherji by Bernard D'Mello, Saroj Giri, Srigendu Bhattacharya and Prof Amit Bhattacharya are a living proof of Kishenj's contributions. Bernard D'Mello weighs in his merits and defects. He summarises how this valiant comrade planted the seeds to enable roses to blossom for a considerable period, before falling into the morass of opportunism or deviation.
Saroj Giri portrays the human element and touch prevailing in Kishenji, bringing out his spiritual essence in possessing unique qualities. He is portrayed as a model in a region which cannot be mechanically copied. Kishenji’s methods were “imperative to ignite the spark of revolution”, believes Giri.
“Lalgarh and the Legend of Kishenji” written by journalist Srigendu Bhattacharya is a classic book in its own right. It gives credibility and criticism probing into the thick and skin of the leaders and cadres of the plains and forests of Jungalmahal. It delves on how the Maoists infiltrated every sphere of politics to convert a spark into prairie fire, based first hand interviews with politicians from different persuasions.
Tributes by Bernard De Mello, Saroj Giri, Srigendu Bhattacharya and Prof Amit Bhattacharya are a living proof of Kishenj's contributions
Srigendu is convinced that without the intervention of the Maoists the movement would never have confronted the ruling party. It illustrates the creativity of Kishenji in paving the path for mass struggles. It points to how a PCAPA leader stood as candidate for election, countering the Maoist line. The author portrays “fatal errors” of Kishenji in trusting opportunist forces. He says, “Kishenji has taken the movement to the grave with him.”
Prof Amit Bhattacharya calls Kishenji’s Lalgarh movement “the second Naxalbari”. He recounts how a large variety of steps were initiated -- such as the formation of PCAPA, equal representation of men and women within PCAPA, men and women youth wings of PCAPA, fight for dignity despite brutal state repression, anti-liquor movement, fight for a new culture with songs and poems reflecting people’s struggles drawing sustenance from the past adivasi rebellions, fight against environmental pollution caused by the establishment of sponge iron factories, and so on.
Said to have been killed allegedly in a cammando operation, Kishenji operated too openly in the social media. His funeral was simply touching, with poet and revolutionary Varavara Rao collecting his body. It also signified how the Mamata-led government tried to cover it up. It is still a major challenge for the civil rights group to bring the culprits to justice.
His death led to a reversal in the Maoist movement and built the breeding ground for a series of splits within the Maoist camp. Some sections were seriously critical of Kishenji's tactics as well as the Maoist party's evaluation of Bengal as semi-feudal. Today virtually no section adheres to the military line of the Maoists in Lalgarh.
---
*Freelance journalist who has toured India and written for blogs

Comments

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Mark Lee: A spiritual leader who thought conventional religions are barrier to liberation

  By Harsh Thakor*  The Krishnamurti Foundation of America (KFA) lost Roger Edwin Mark Lee, who was a devoted disciple of Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the greatest and most self realised spiritual philosophers of our time. Mark passed away due to pneumonia complications on April 6, 2024, at he Ventura Community Memorial Hospital in California. His exit was an irreparable loss to the spiritual world.

Fossil fuel projects: NGOs ask investors to cut TotalEnergies’ main sources of finance

By Antoine Bouhey, Lara Cuvelier, Helen Burley*  Reclaim Finance has joined 58 NGOs from around the world, including Banktrack, in signing an open letter calling on banks and investors to stop participating in bonds (loans granted by investors and facilitated by banks) issued by TotalEnergies. The 58 NGO signatories include 350.org , Amazon Watch, BankTrack, Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR, Papua New Guinea), Justiça Ambiental (Mozambique) and Friday for Future (Uganda), Oil Change International and Urgewald (Germany).