A popular left wing leader in the assembly of the Indian state of Jharkhand was assassinated by gunmen on 16 January. Mahendra Singh, a leading member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), was killed as he prepared to run for his fourth successive term in office.
The assassination is believed to be a political killing which will benefit the Hindu-chauvinist BJP—the right wing party which controls the assembly—and their allies in big business. Mahendra was a popular leader of the exploited and oppressed in the region. He was arrested and detained by the authorities on several occasions for organising protests and exposing the corruption of the political and business elite.
Through his actions he earned the hatred of Deepak Verma, a regional police chief linked to the BJP. Mahendra had accused Verma of a series of political assassinations and of embezzling state funds.Verma was on record as saying that he would prevent Mahendra winning re-election to the regional assembly by whatever means necessary.
But Mahendra had powerful allies too. He won the respect of the rural poor whose land rights he defended. He was a former president of Jharkhand’s militant coal workers’ union, the CMWU, and was also popular among steel workers in the region. Thousands gathered outside police stations to protest at the assassination and demand a proper investigation. Thousands more thronged to the college where Mahendra’s body was laid, shrouded in a red flag.
For a full obituary go to www.cpiml.org