Kishanji (1954-2011)

Amit Bhattacharyya

Mallojula Koteswar Rao was born in 1954 in Koddapally town in the Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. As a high school student, he actively took part in the movement for a separate Telangana state in 1969. Like many of his contemporaries, the Naxalbari struggle of 1967 and the Girijan struggle in Srikakulam that came in its wake influenced his mind profoundly. He was then a graduate student at SSR College at Karimnagar. In 1974, after the end of the first phase of the CPI (ML) struggle, he joined the party as an activist. He joined the RSU (Radical Students’ Union) and went underground during the emergency under Indira Gandhi regime. He worked in the villages and played an active role in exposing the 20-Point programme of the ruling Congress party. The second conference of the RSU was held in February 1978 and the first conference of the RYL (Radical Youth League) in May 1978. These two gatherings were important in young Koteswar Rao’s political career. He took part in the ‘to the village’ movement – a movement that was initiated after  Naxalbari by Charu Mazumdar when he gave the call to the youth and students to go to the village and integrate with the poor and landless peasants as a preliminary step towards revolutionary transformation – a step that subsequently became part of revolutionary communism in India. That appears to be Kishanji’s first step towards baptism in the process of integration with the peasantry. In September, 1978, he took part in a peasant movement known as ‘Jagityal Joitrajatra’  (Victory March to Jagityal) which was the culmination of the mass movement for occupying the land by landless peasantry in as many as 150 villages covering Karimnagar and Adilabad districts.  It was this movement that gave birth to such future Maoist leaders as Ganapati, Kishanji and others. He was, by then, the secretary of the CPI(ML) COC, in Karimnagar district. According to media reports, he was associated with the Adilabad-Karimnagar joint committee, Karimnagar district committee, AP state committee as the secretary and took organisational and military responsibilities in many parts of Dandakaranya. From the mid-1990s, he assumed the leadership of the movement in the Jangalmahal region of West Bengal as also in other states. It is said that Kishanji was personally involved in both Singur and Nandigram movements. All of us have heard about his leading role during the historic movement centring Lalgarh. From then on, the name of Kishanji became a household name in West Bengal.

 (This is an abbreviated account).

Revolutionary Democracy writes:

On 24th November 2011 the body of the Maoist leader was found in Burishole jungle of the Jhargram area of the West Medinipur district of West Bengal. It bore marks of brutal torture before extra-judicial execution. It was yet another dastardly killing by the Indian state. The assassination produced another martyr of the Indian revolution.  The views of this journal on the line of the CPI (Maoist) are known. In his discussions with the CPI leaders in Moscow in 1951 Stalin adverted to the frequent inclination of some CPI members to the side of individual terror similar to the politics of the narodnik Socialist Revolutionaries in Russia. Earlier to this in the freedom movement individual terrorism had been an important current amongst those who were distant from the working class and the peasantry. Separated from the working class movement such tactics over decades have impeded the development of the democratic movement in India. They have complemented the reformist, parliamentarist tactics of the CPI and the CPI (M) .  There is no doubt that the Maoists built up to a certain degree a mass movement after Nandigram in the Lalgarh area through the PCAP. Inevitably they came into conflict with the local CPI (Marxist) cadre.  It is also clear that this CPI (Marxist) cadre had become more of a bunch of local bullies and extortionists rather than progressive political activists. The situation demanded the consolidation and broadening of an open mass movement. But Kishanji extended the practice of individual terrorism beyond even the party line and in its battle with the CPI (Marxist) publicly threw in its electoral weight behind the Trinamool Congress led by the same Mamata Banerjee who had been an integral part of the pro-US  lumpen Sanjay Gandhi caucus of the Congress Party during the internal Emergency. In this way the CPI (Maoist) gave the field over to the Trinamool which eventually turned around and hit back at them. In a sympathetic account  of the life of this revolutionary Bernard D’Mello  argues that in his activities in Lalgarh, ‘Kishenji erred in handling the contradictions between the CPI (M), then the ruling party, and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), led by Mamata Banerjee, then the main opposition party. And, his aggressive sectarian and ultra-left adventurist tactics cost the Party and the mass movement dearly, for these acts brought on state repression a multiple of what it would have otherwise been. The contradictions between the Maoist revolutionaries and the social-democratic CPI (M) at the local level need not have been escalated to the point of becoming intensely antagonistic. And, some of the (excessive) killings were the Maoists really annihilating class enemies? Ultimately, it was the Trinamool Congress who took advantage of the situation to defeat the CPI (M) candidates in the area in the assembly elections in April-May this year’. ( Kishanji then practised in a concentrated form the already condensed version of the narodnik and individual-terrorist tendency of the CPI (Maoist).

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