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Admired by liberals, this top Maoist 'failed' to distance himself from Left-sectarianiam

By Harsh Thakor* 

An astute Maoist, Raj Kishore, who died at the age of 89 on December 22 in Champaran, Bihar, after battling illness since 2014, may not have distanced himself from left sectarianism with regard to building broad based democratic mass movement and mass organisations and left adventurist military line. However, his work for the liberation of the masses was admired by diverse sections, including liberals.
Tears literally flow in my eyes when I recount the moments I spent with him. I can never forget his warm heart and grit on his face. He persuaded me not to be diverted by spiritualism, stressing that revolution was the only true road towards liberation. I can't forget the affectation he showed towards me at the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) Conference in Hyderabad years ago, giving me a five copies of the RDF organ of and stating 'Aap bahut acche ho.'
Today RDF is unofficially banned in India and formally banned in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. With its back broken, it is in a shambles, though its constituents are still active in Kerala and Punjab.
I first met Raj Kishore at the All India Peoples Resistance Forum rally protesting 9/11 in October 2001, in Patna. At that time he was the Bihar leader of the Struggling Forum for Peoples Resistance and editor of magazine "Jan Jwar". Also editor of "Jan Pratirodh", he would publish many an article condemning Brahmanical fascism.
One who sowed the seeds revolutionary cultural movement in Bihar through the Krantikari Budhijibi Sangh, some of the finest writings by intellectuals were produced under Raj Kishore's tutelage, projecting how the peasantry was entrapped by the forces of semi-feudalism and caste hierarchy and how women were still enslaved. Plays were written portraying how medieval landlordism was still an integral part of the sytem and projecting how the Chinese revolution and Mao thought was still relevant.
He was one of the major architects of the All India League for Revolutionary Culture in 1983 in Delhi. Here mass organizations belonging to the trends of the CPI(ML), Peoples War and the Maoist Communist Centre came together. Those participating included Varavara Rao, a veteran poet and revolutionary, who was sought to be implicated in the infamous Bhima Koregaon case, and was a political prisoner since 2018, though granted unconditional bail recently.
Unlike many other Maoists, Raj Kishore defended Stalin tooth as also the Chinese revolution, its achievements, the Chinese Red army and Mao's teachings. One who also disseminated the teachings of Marx and Lenin, he inspired the formation of the Revolutionary Students' League, the first students' organisation in Bihar which emulated the line of the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students' Union.
In 2005, after the formation of RDF with the merger of the All India People's Resistance Forum and the Struggling Forum for People's Resistance, he was appointed secretary of the newly formed organisation. He formed part of the all-India commitee for the release of political prisoners, headed by Amit Bhattachrya and late Gursharan Singh.
His leadership turned a spark into a prairie fire in waging protests against the repression unleashed by the commando forces, particularly in West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.He played an important role in public meetings staged to condemn the killing of Azaad in 2010 and Kishanji in 2011.
An astute defender of Maoism amongst cultural leaders and intellectuals, some well known names, Varavara Rao, Venugopal Rao, MN Ravunni, Vernon Gonsalves, Shoma and Arun Fereira of Maharashtra, many of them accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, held him in high esteem.
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*Freelance journalist based in Mumbai

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