Big kill

It is too early to say if the reported death of Maoist leader Kishenji in an encounter in a forest in West Midnapur district of West Bengal will mark a turning point in the fight against Maoist insurgency. Though the quality of leadership always makes a difference, Maoists have depended more on organisation than on personalities in promoting their cause, in increasing their strength and in fighting enemies. That derives from a basic ideological position that puts society above the individual and the flow of history above the whirlpools of events that appear and vanish in the stream. It considers no individual indispensable, though it is true that leaders have left their personal stamp on the movement at all times and in all countries. But, even as the movement sets great store by the motivation, capabilities and commitment of individuals, it always tries to insure itself against failures at the individual level, betrayals, disappearances and deaths. This risk-proofing may be true with all organisations  and movements but it is more true with revolutionary movements than with others.

Therefore the void created by Kishenji’s death may soon be filled, without the outside world even realising that there was a change. There would be an alternative leadership ready to take over from the fallen leader. The plan may already have been implemented. But the death is still a setback for the movement. Kishenji’s abilities, strategic thinking, oraganisational abilities, experience and commitment had helped it to expand its operations to new areas. More than three decades of life in hiding had put a lot of iron in his soul and the movement definitely gained from it. He was considered to be in charge of the military operations and was perhaps the second or third highest leader in the overall hierarchy. He will certainly be missed in the party.

While the security forces can claim credit for eliminating perhaps the most sought after leader of Maoist insurgency, the victory may not amount to much if the Maoists recover from the shock and recoup well. The elimination of an individual leader does not mean that the organisation has been weakened. It may boost the morale and confidence of the security forces but the movement will be defeated only when the whole organisation is defeated. This will not be possible without eliminating the reasons that gave rise to the Maoist movement and made it acceptable to many people. 

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