Maoist movement in the country has suffered a massive blow with the killing of Mallojula Koteshwara Rao, popularly known as Kishenji, in West Bengal.
The biggest credit for this 57-year-old Maoist leader is the building of Lalgarh movement in West Bengal, which is now billed as the second Naxalbari in India. One of the first generation founding leaders of erstwhile CPI-ML People's War (PW) in Andhra Pradesh, Kishenji left an indelible imprint in building the revolutionary movement not just in West Bengal, but also in Andhra Pradesh and Dandakaranya (part of which is Chhattisgarh).
While most of the leaders of the ultra left movement in India were either strong on an ideological plane or had only had sound military capabilities, Kishenji belonged to the rare class of being an able ideologue and also the best in military field craft. Perhaps, it was this rare capability that help the Lalgarh movement reach new scales on the revolutionary arena.
Intelligence officers who keep track of the Left Wing Extremist (LWE) movement concede that Kishenji's understanding of guerrilla tactics and strategies was phenomenal. For example, when the Lalgarh resistance movement was in its nascent stage, Kishenji's idea of digging huge trenches across the roads to halt movement of security forces was a huge hit. Kishenji, counter insurgency experts concede, had effectively replicated (Ho Chi Minh trails – digging trenches on roads) a tactic employed by Vietnamese guerrillas.
Kishenji, a Brahmin by caste, was born in Peddapalli town of Karimnagar district, about 200 km from Hyderabad and was a graduate by the time CPI (ML) People's War was formed. Known for his straightforward approach, unlike his comrade-in-arms Muppala Laxmana Rao alias Ganapathi (now Maoist Chief), Kishenji landed himself in troubles within his party often. He was the leader of a Dalam (squad) in which Ganapathi was a member in 1980. He became the secretary of the People's War for Andhra Pradesh and was shifted to Dandakaranya by 1985 after his colleagues accused him of suffering from severe deviations.
In Dandakaranya too, he proved his mettle by enhancing the military capabilities of the Maoist cadres and then he shifted to West Bengal by 1995. Very significantly, that was the time, the PW had only a couple of mass organisations working in West Bengal and Bihar/Jharkhand or in other North Indian States. By 2004 he built a perfect underground squad structure and after PW merged with MCCI to form CPI Maoist, the revolutionary movement got further strengthened. His role in unification of the revolutionary forces is also significant and he is stated to have played a crucial role in merger talks between MCCI and PW.
Kishenji, was once arrested in Karimnagar district in 1977 when villagers of Marigadda grew suspicious of him and handed him over to police. In 1985, police came close to arresting him along with Nalla Adi Reddy (killed later by police in 2000), in Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad when he opened fire on the police team and escaped.
The slain leader was a member of the Central Committee, Central Military Commission and the Polit Bureau of the CPI Maoist, and carried a reward of Rs. 12 lakh announced by the Andhra Pradesh government. His brother Mallojula Venugopal is also another Central Committee member, who is known to have been appointed as the spokesman of the CPI (Maoist) with a nom de guerre of Abhay.
Kishenji's death comes at a time, when the Centre has begun claiming that the Maoist violence and activity has declined in all the LWE affected States, except Bihar and Maharashtra.
According to a written reply given to Rajya Sabha on Wednesday by Union Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh, there were 1,468 violent incidents up to November 2011 in nine States, while the figure stood at 1,925 for the corresponding period in 2010. Maoists killed 49 persons this year, while 207 were killed in 2010.