Mallojula Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, a CPI(Maoist) Politburo member, seen as the face of Maoist movement in India and a key face of Lalgarh movement, was allegedly killed in an encounter by men of CoBRA (Commando Battalion of Resolute Action) Battalion, assisted by over 1,000 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) men, who cordoned the jungles of Burishole in West Bengal in the morning of Nov 24, 2011.
Behind the killing of Kishenji there is a pattern. In 2004 in Andhra Pradesh, Maoist party leaders were killed while returning after the talks which failed with the then AP government. Again in 2010, CPI(Maoist) spokesperson Azad was shot down while carrying message from interlocutor Swami Agnivesh to his comrades in Dandkaranya. Peace talks were going on with the interlocutors appointed by newly elected Mamata government and the interlocutors claimed to make progress and details of potential peace deal were being discussed.
Then, after four years, comes the proud declaration, “During the four year rule (of Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool government), only one person has died (in Jangalmahal). He is Maoist leader Kishenji. By killing him the Mamata Banerjee government has proved that people will have the last word”, says TMC MP and nephew of Ms Banerjee and heir apparent of TMC, Abhishek Banerjee, at a meeting at Belpahari in West Medinipur on July 17, 2015.
Though the TMC leadership and its supremo Mamata Banerjee are in denial mode and are terming Abishek’s statement “a young lad’s ranting”, the fact remains that veteran TMC MP, Shubhendu Adhikari too was present and that the said ranting was not corrected. The right groups through their various fact-finding reports maintained that Kishenji was brutally tortured in captivity and was then murdered. Broken ankles and forearm, multiple bullet injuries, hanging eye ball, slashed throat, sharp cuts, burn injuries on his body were proof of brutal torture. No other person was injured or arrested, where security men always covered Maoist leader. Government denied the allegation altogether.
Before coming to power, Ms Banerjee refrained from making any statement against Maoists and was considered an ally to the extent that Kishenji, himself openly threw his weight behind the TMC leader. Where Ms Banerjee denied that anything like the Maoists exist, Kishenji said he wanted to see Ms Banerjee the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Their alliance in the historic struggle of Singur and Nandigram against land acquisition was a secret known to all. Mamata Banerjee, the then Railway Minister, during a rally in Lalgarh on August 9, 2010, condemned the cold blooded killing of Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad in July 2010. Terming the killing ‘a murder’, she demanded an impartial probe.
But things changed when she came to power. After becoming Chief Minister, she did not keep her promise of withdrawing joint armed forces from Junglemahal. The committee that her government made for release of political prisoners was an eyewash to the extent that many of the cases slapped during Singur and Nandigram struggle on the protesting villagers are still regularly being heard in various courts and proceedings are long-drawn. Ms Banerjee claimed that she was the top political leader in the hit list of Maoists. Within a year of coming to power, any voice that tried to raise question was termed Maoist and arrested. Mamata Banerjee claimed that her eyes are good enough to identify a Maoist in a crowd. Shiladitya Chowdhuri of Jhargram had to spend weeks in jail for asking why fertilizer prices are increasing and why she is making false promises; while she was addressing a public rally in Jhargram. Prof Ambikesh Mahapatra had to go through severe humiliation and had to spend a night in local Police Station before obtaining bail on the silly accusation of forwarding a cartoon on Ms Banerjee.
In last four years many more people, much more than the number arrested during struggle, have been arrested; many more case have been slapped. One might have to spend days together in illegal police custody for not joining TMC or attending its rally in Junglemahal area. And now in the same region, few days ago the heir apparent of TMC claims that his government murdered Kishenji, which there is no reason to disbelief. In fact the “young lad” must be congratulated for telling the truth. In this situation, the claimed peace in Junglemahal raises many questions.
The statement of Abhishek Banerjee is important not only in the case of killing of Kishenji or Azad but raises question on all the encounter killings that have happened and are happening in Junglemahal as well as in other parts of the country, be it Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu or any other state. It is high time that impartial inquiries be undertaken and state be stopped from murdering its own people.