Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 08, Dated February 27, 2010
MAOISTS ARE NOT PRO-TRIBAL, SAYS
MARSHALL, KISHENJI’S FORMER ZONAL
COMMANDER WHO HAS BROKEN RANKS
‘Our Fight Is For
Wanted by the West Bengal Police on
several counts of murder, 33-year-old
Maoist area commander Gurucharan
Kisku, alias Marshall, who has recently
formed a 150-strong splinter group, spoke
to TUSHA MITTAL about the need for a
tribal revolution. Excerpts:
|The rebel Photo
taken on Marshall’s
Why did you join the CPI(Maoist)? Tell
us about your personal journey.
I joined the MCC (Maoist Communist
Centre) in 1988. I felt there was a need
for self-governance and self-pride for
Adivasis. But two years later, I left the
party to support my family. After some
odd jobs, I joined the Ananda Margis
[a controversial Hindu organisation],
and remained a sanyasi with them until
1996. I left to learn spoken English for
three years. I joined the PWG (People’s
War Group) in 1999. In 2000, I went
underground into the forest with a
People’s War squad.
Why did you leave the MCC after the
initial two years?
My father was a poor farmer who cultivated
rice on a four-acre plot and my
mother is a housewife. My understanding
of the problems that beset my community
and the necessity of revolution
was still very raw.
What made you rejoin?
I rejoined at the behest of a leader
named Asit Sarkar. Our area is so hilly
and remote that no benefits of government
policies ever reach the villages. I
wanted to be part of the revolution again
to preserve our community, cultural
identity and language. We needed a
revolution to bring development to our
society. Initially, we were told that the
arms given to us were only for self-protection.
We were to build a people’s revolution,
create a free zone in this region
and give the government a jolt.
Why did you quit the party again?
When the MCC and PWG united to
form CPI(Maoist), the party produced an
18-page, 24-point agenda for the upliftment
of Adivasis, dealing with the
preservation and enhancement of our
language, culture and education. There
was no mention of class struggle. Since
2003, I started realising that we were
moving away from the agenda, and
told the party to stick to the original
charter. When I kept insisting, the party
began avoiding and sidelining me.
They said that they would not go back
to a communitarian line. In 2005, the
party officially disowned its original
On the ground, how are the Maoists
acting against the Adivasi agenda?
Instead of the existing gram samitis (village councils), the party started creating
alternative committees within the
village consisting of people who were
either close to or members of the party.
The party’s declared objective was that
all activity — social, cultural and economic
— would be controlled by these
committees. However, the leadership is
non-tribal, and does not understand
what it means to be Adivasi. The Adivasi
identity is based on our village life, language
and customs. I felt that this way,
our culture was being destroyed.
As long as the Maoists are here, the
oppression of Adivasis will continue,
because the State is going to bring down
more brutality on us. The Maoists are
making things worse for us. This area
will explode and ultimately we, the tribals,
will be displaced from our land.
Whatever links we have to our culture
will then be lost forever. We don’t want a
revolution that will make us refugees. A
small Adivasi group like ours cannot
survive the onslaught of the State; we
need other ways of improving our lot.
You are a most-wanted fugitive in
West Bengal, accused of several
murders. Do you regret them?
The party taught us that armed revolution
is the only way. Yes, I do regret the murders.
I have realised that if the party line is
clear, there is no need for unnecessary
killings. Ultimately, most of the dead
people are tribals themselves. Whenever
a tribal raises his voice against the
Maoists, he is killed.
As Maoists, we had been fighting for
a greater idea of India. Within such an
all-encompassing struggle, some unfortunate
incidents are bound to happen.
But if this is a struggle for Adivasi rights,
what end does it serve by killing tribals?
Did you oppose the killings by the
Maoists? What were you told?
I don’t advocate the killing of people. But
who is going to listen to me within the
party? The majority view rules. Whenever
I opposed the killing of Adivasis, I
was told to think of the person we were
killing not as an Adivasi but as a cadre
of the CPM.
Are you still a Maoist?
Complicated question. If you apply
Maoist theory, then I am the real Maoist.
If you consider Maoist as someone who
kills police officers and innocent people,
I am not one. I am the one following
the party line. They [Kishenji’s group]
What is the agenda of your group?
It is important for the people of India
to understand the difference between
the demands of the Adivasis and that of
the Maoists. We have started uniting
the tribals of [West] Bengal, Orissa and
Jharkhand. We are yet to decide on a formal
name for our group and the direction
our struggle will take. We are going
to decide soon what our next steps will
be. Wherever there are Adivasis, we will
start our movement there. We don’t have
any radically new agenda to offer. Within
our tribal societies, we have our own
democratic structures and we will let that take due course. Our immediate
objective is to bring back the primacy of
our language and culture in our society.
What is your strategy of making
tribals a part of the mainstream?
Our first goal is to wean tribals away
from Maoists by highlighting differences
between Maoism and Jharkhandism
(Adivasi rights). For us, agriculture and
food are of prime importance. For that
we need water and irrigation. Once our
stomachs are full, we want education,
but in our own languages. We want the
Adivasi languages to command the same
respect as Bangla, Oriya and Hindi. We
want self-rule within the traditional village
structures we’ve always had. We
want to build our own society on our own terms. We are not beggars, we don’t
Do you believe in the Constitution
and the democratic process?
To get what the Indian Constitution
promises us, like what the 5th Schedule
promised us tribals, we need a popular
uprising. Where is it written that the
police can inflict such brutality on us? I
don’t believe in elections or panchayats.
Adivasis cannot expect justice through
the existing democratic process. I also
don’t believe in the Maoist description
of the Constitution. For the self-esteem
and self-respect of Adivasis, we need to
have our own systems and structures in
place. No one wants the extensive bloodshed
we are witnessing now.
ADIVASIS, I WAS
TOLD TO THINK OF
THEM AS CADRES
OF THE CPM
Then why do you insist on keeping
arms? When would you use them?
We have no plan to use them if our revolution
can be successful without arms.
But we have so many enemies that we
need something for our own protection.
We will only use arms in self-defence. If
the State uses repression, we will be
forced to take up arms.
Are you afraid your life is in danger?
Even when I was in the party, there was
a secret plan to assassinate me. Just as I
was suspicious of their true design, they
were conscious that I was questioning
their real motives. Ever since I left the
party, I know they will shoot me if they
get a chance.
Are Maoists losing tribal support?
The Maoists would often put up posters
in the dead of the night. Later, the
police would torture those villagers
whose houses displayed the posters.
Now, Adivasis have begun telling the
Maoists not to use their walls for these
posters. They say if you have to get us
killed, kill us yourself.
What is your position on extortion
by the Maoists?
The party doesn’t extort money from the
poor, only from big contractors. And we
never extracted so much from contractors
that it would affect their business.
But yes, I accept it is wrong to extort. It
is true that the levy is collected by the
party under duress.