Kolkata: A shrewd fighter and a marksman,
top Maoist leader Kishenji spent three decades of his life in
hiding, waging a relentless, bloody war against the state to
emerge as the biggest security headache for the West Bengal
Government and the Centre.
Born Mallojula Koteswara Rao in an Andhra village, the
media-friendly 58-year-old cotton-clad savvy commander was the
face of the Maoist movement in India.
Kishenji`s body image in public is of a man with his face
covered showing only his back with a striped scarf around his
head and a AK-47 Assault Rifle slung across his shoulder.
He has been under immense pressure since the start of
`Operation Greenhunt` in 2009 and like counterinsurgency
operations throughout the Maoist stronghold in the `Red
Corridor` that are underway at present.
Active in Lalgarh area of West Bengal, he has regularly
vacillated about the concept of peace talks on the national
level with the Centre all the while issuing statements that he
refuses to lay down arms as a pre-condition of arriving at the
A Politburo member of the banned Communist Party of India
(Maoist) and the group`s military leader, he had claimed
responsibility for the Silda camp attack in West Bengal in
2010. Twenty-four paramilitary personnel of Eastern Frontier
Rifles(EFR) were killed in the massacre.
"This is our `Operation Peace Hunt`. It is our
retaliation against the `Operation Green Hunt` of the
government," an unrepentant Kishenji told local television
stations in Kolkata after the attack. Union Home Minister P
Chidambaram and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have dubbed
Maoists as worse and deadlier than terrorists.
The second in-command of the outfit and in-charge of
military operations in junglemahal since 2009, Kishenji has
given regular interviews to the media from an unknown
location. He has previously used Prahlad, Murali, Ramji,
Jayant and Sridhar as aliases.
Born in the Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh,
Kishenji helped found the People`s War Group (PWG) in 1980 and
oversaw the group`s merger with the Maoist Communist Centre of
India to form the CPI(Maoist).
In one of the media interviews, Kishneji claimed he does
not "kill easily" but the violence he has unleashed betrays
his claim. Once, he had described himself as a "soft-hearted
person, willing to forgive".
The rebel went underground a year after the Emergency in
1975 and came in contact with CPIM(L) leaders. In 1980, he
co-founded People`s War in Andhra Pradesh, rose to being
politburo member and was put in charge of organising movements
in the Telangana region and Dandakaranya in AP.
In the early 1990s, he moved into Bihar, then a Maoist
Communist Centre of India (MCCI) stronghold.
Kishenji set about orchestrating a merger of the two
radical forces. Inspite of strong differences, he succeeded in
unifying PW and MCC in 2004. This brought him to the tribal
belt of West Bengal, where he soon showed his aggressiveness
and hunger for power.
He has been accused of sidelining Maoist leaders in West
Bengal and expelled several senior leaders who fell out with
him. Now, he is the undisputed Number 2 in the eastern region
Reports of Kishenji being missing from the front after a
recent injury had led to speculation about his future in the
Maoist movement but judging by his audacious, repeated public
statements he displayed no intention of abating armed struggle
at any time in the near future.
Kishenji often described his father in interviews as a
The estimated 22,000 insurgents believed to be under
Kishenji`s command have traditionally used hit-and run
attacks and ambushes on security forces comprised of small
arms fire, laying anti-personnel and anti-vehicular mines.
In the last several years, they have become quite adept
at using Improvised Explosive Devices(IED) to inflict mass
casualties on their opponents who often travel and congregate
in large groups.