On November 24, 2011, in “the world’s largest democracy”, the Indian state in collusion with the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, executed a leading voice of the revolutionary movement in India, Mallojula Koteswara Rao, popularly known as ‘Comrade Kishenji’ in the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI(Maoist) for short. Koteswara Rao was reportedly arrested, tortured, and finally killed while dealing with an offer of peace talks from the duplicitous West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. State forces initially tried to pass off the killing as an ‘encounter’. Such extra-judicial killings are routine when dealing with the revolutionary movement, where police capture a revolutionary figure, kill them, and then make it look like a passing military encounter.
The assassination of Comrade Kishenji comes just under a year and a half after the killing of another leading figure in the Maoist movement, Cherukuri Rajkumar, or ‘Comrade Azad’, who was likewise killed in one of the staged ‘encounters’ that have become all-too-familiar for the revolutionary forces in India. Since 2007, the CPI(Maoist) has lost nearly half its Politburo to such killings or arrests. Yet, the movement manages to surge forth.
Born in 1954 in the town of Peddapally in North Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Rao hailed from a revolutionary family. His own father was a freedom fighter, and the teenage Rao became involved in the separatist movement of Telengana in 1969. The great peasant uprising of Naxalbari – the birth of the Maoist movement in India – ultimately attracted him to the broader revolutionary movement. Since 1974, Rao been an active Party member in the revolutionary struggle, which at that time was united under the banner of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). To Rao is owed the credit of playing a prominent role in the 1978 peasant upsurge known as ‘Jagityal Jaitrayatra’ (Victory March of Jagityal), and thereafter he continued to build the movement in Andhra Pradesh. In 1986 Rao was transferred to Dandakaranya where he took up high-level responsibilities as a member of the Forest Committee, leading guerilla squads and the people’s struggles in Gadchiroli and Bastar.
The Maoist movement in India – commonly referred to as ‘Naxals’ or ‘Naxalites’ in the media and known to be the “biggest internal security threat” to India’s ruling classes and their multinational corporate friends – is led by the CPI (Maoist) and its armed-wing, the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. The revolutionary forces cover a large swathe of the forests of central-eastern India, which are ‘adivasi’ areas of rural tribal peoples whose lands are being shamelessly looted for mineral wealth by multinational corporations and the local elites. In their attempt to contain the growing revolutionary movement, in 2009 the Indian state unleashed ‘Operation Green Hunt’, a brutal paramilitary offensive consisting of more than 50,000 soldiers deployed to crush the armed peasant movement. The hand of foreign powers benefiting from the plunder of India can be seen in this war on the people through the training that Indian intelligence has received from the CIA and Israel’s Mossad in counter-insurgency tactics.
The CPI(Maoist) to which Rao belonged was itself born in 2004 out of the coalescence of a previously fractured Maoist movement in India, which saw the merger of the Communist Party of India (People’s War) and the Maoist Communist Centre (India), a merger that ‘Comrade Kishenji’ played an important role in bringing together.
More recently, Rao also provided political guidance to the two major popular upsurges in West Bengal in recent years, the uprising of Nandigram in 2007 and the Lalgarh rebellion against police atrocities throughout 2009.
While so many people in the world’s second most populous country mourned the murder of a leading voice of their revolution, barely a word of this crime was mentioned in the international press. And it’s not because the powerful are not paying attention.
As you look at the attached map of ‘Naxals affected areas in India’, you may be asking yourself why you haven’t heard more about this struggle? Afterall, we hear so much of the nebulous and elusive Al-Qaida which no one can ever really put their finger on, while the Maoists command a guerrilla force running into the tens of thousands and a support base far beyond that, and yet we hear so little of them.
It’s a conspiracy of silence. The powerful know well that any reporting on the vast, revolutionary struggle in India’s countryside runs the risk of conveying both lessons and inspiration for other struggling peoples throughout the world. And if there’s any lesson that’s important for 2011, it’s that a genuine liberation struggle never comes through unscrupulous bands of foreign-backed mercenaries and democracies brought into being by aerial bombing campaigns. Revolution comes from the people and the people alone, and the land poor and dispossessed in India are making revolution.