Kolkata : Security forces achieved their biggest success in West Bengal when Maoist commander Kishenji was killed. While this is seen as a major setback for the Leftwing movement, the irony is hard to miss.
The media savvy politburo member of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), Kishenji or Mallojula Koteswara Rao, had once said: “I want to see Mamata Banerjee as chief minister of West Bengal.”
But he died in an alleged shootout – tortured and killed, is the Maoist version – just six months after Trinamool chief Banerjee took power in the state, the birthplace of the Maoist movement.
Officials say Kishenji died in a battle with paramilitary forces and state police in a forested region of West Midnapore Nov 24. Maoists and human rights groups don’t agree.
Kishenji, 55, had escaped four police traps since 2009, giving him a near iconic status.
The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) alleged that Kishenji was killed in a “fake encounter”, Telugu poet and Maoist sympathizer P. Varvara Rao charged the state government with “murdering” him in police custody.
Some rights groups refer to Banerjee’s Aug 9, 2010 speech when she commented that Maoist leader Cherakuri Rajkumar alias Azad’s killing then was not correct.
Azad was killed by Andhra Pradesh Special Intelligence Branch at Adilabad district July 2, allegedly in a shootout.
As an opposition leader, Banerjee had many times claimed that there were no Maoists in the state and that she would withdraw security forces from ‘Junglemahal’ – the forested stretches of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore districts if she came to power. She did that, only to resume the crackdown this month.
This came within hours of the Maoists calling off a mutual ceasefire. Earlier, two Trinamool supporters were allegedly killed by the ultras in Balrampur area of Purulia, considered a red den. Many Trinamool workers had been gunned down in the past six months.
Just 10 days after Banerjee’s announcement, Kishenji – the CPI-Maoist’s no. 3 — lay dead, bringing a possible breather for the chief minister who had so far been attacked by the Marxists for being ‘soft’ on the rebels.
The elimination of Kishenji is considered a heavy blow to the Maoists in West Bengal after another top leader, Sashadhar Mahato, was gunned down during an alleged gun battle during the Marxist regime.
The Maoists earlier lost Lal Mohan Tudu and Sidhu Soren, leaders of the tribal group People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), also in separate gun battles. Many of its leaders are in jail.
The elimination of senior Maoists and the recent surrender of dreaded rebel leader Jagori Baske is expected to weaken the Maoists. It might help the pro-active chief minister to push her development agenda in the backward region in order to wean away the poor from the guerrillas.
This has come at a cost. Central intelligence agencies have warned Banerjee and other Trinamool leaders that they have come on the Maoist hit list. Security for them is being beefed up.