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Pictures of alleged Maoist attack at Attapady
Pictures of alleged Maoist attack at Attapady
Governance

Why The Sudden Spurt In Maoist Encounters In Kerala?

The Opposition calls the encounters fake while the ruling CPM-led coalition stands by its police action

Rejimon Kuttapan

Rejimon Kuttapan

Seven Maoists have been killed in three separate incidents in Kerala since 2016 after the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government has come to power.

This year, so far, while five Maoists have been killed in Kerala, in 2016 two were killed.

However, Kerala is not even listed as a Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) concern state in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Annual Reports 2018-19 and 2017-18.

And according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report published on October 10, total crimes reported by Naxalites in Kerala in 2017 is only 11.

The NCRB report states that there was not even a single murder, attempt to commit murder, rape, kidnapping, abduction, hurt and grievous hurt committed by Maoists. The report also states that there was no theft, loot, extortion, arson, criminal intimidation and threatening committed by Maoists.

In the 11 crime cases recorded, eight are under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The MHA 2018-19 report says that during the last five years India has seen a significant decline in LWE violence as well as the geographical spread of LWE in the country.

“The declining trend in LWE violence continued in 2018 as well. There has been an overall 26.7% reduction in violent incidents (1136 to 833) and 39.5% reduction (397 to 240) in LWE related deaths since end-2013,” the report adds.

According to the report, Chhattisgarh reported 392 incidents and 153 deaths making it the most affected state followed by Jharkhand with 205 incidents and 43 deaths, Bihar with 59 incidents and 15 deaths, Odisha with 75 incidents and 12 deaths and Maharashtra with 75 incidents and 12 deaths.

The report adds that Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand together accounted for 71.7% of the violent incidents and 81.7% of deaths.

Odisha and Maharashtra followed by Bihar accounted for 9%, 9% and 7.1% of the incidents respectively in 2018.

Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana together reported less than 4% incidents.

Nowhere here, is Kerala seen in the list.

The report states that the CPI (Maoist) continues to be the most potent among the various LWE outfits in the country and accounted for more than 88% of total LWE violent incidents and resultant deaths.

“Amidst increasing reverses, the CPI (Maoist) has been making efforts to expand to new areas along Inter-State borders without any significant success,” the report adds.

Why The Sudden Spurt In Maoist Encounters In Kerala?
Source: MHA
Why The Sudden Spurt In Maoist Encounters In Kerala?
Source: MHA

And according to the MHA 2017-18 report, the declining trend of LWE violence which started in 2011 continued in 2017 as well.

“In comparison to 2016, the year 2017 saw a decline of 13.4% (1048 to 908) in incidents of violence and 5.4% (278 to 263) in resultant deaths,” the report adds.

In this report also, Kerala is not seen.

In a reply placed before the Lok Sabha, the central government has reported that LWE has declining over the years both in terms of violence and geographical spread.

“The last five years has seen a significant improvement in the LWE scenario across the country. The number of violent incidents and resultant deaths have reduced by 43.4% and 60.4% respectively during last 05 years (2014-18) compared to the preceding 05 years (2009-13),” the reply states.

Why The Sudden Spurt In Maoist Encounters In Kerala?
Source: Lok Sabha

The Encounters

On 24 November 2016, two Maoist leaders were killed by Kerala’s Thunderbolt police in the Nilambur forest area.

Kuppu Devaraj, a senior member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and Ajitha, a woman leader of the group’s Karnataka wing were the ones killed.

Interestingly, they do not have any cases registered against them in Kerala state. However, the Kerala police killed them in a shootout.

According to reports, Devaraj was a wanted person and rewards of Rs 7 lakh and Rs 10 lakh were announced by Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh state governments for his arrest.

Talking to the media, Devaraj’s brother had said then that his brother had worked for the good of the people and had left the house long ago.

And on 06 March 2019, CP Jaleel, a Maoist, was shot down when he and his colleague came to a resort in Vythiri looking for money and food for 10 people.

Police had said Jaleel was killed in an encounter with the special 'Thunderbolt' (anti-Maoists) commandos on Wednesday around 9:30 pm.

However, Jaleel's relatives had rejected the claims of the police and alleged that it was a "fake encounter".

Interestingly, a day after Jaleel was killed in a shootout, the manager at the resort claimed that the Maoists did not take anyone hostage and it was the police who began firing first.

The Kerala police said in a statement that the Maoists had reached the resort at Vythiri at 8:30 pm and tried to snatch money and food from the staff.

“It was the Maoists who started firing when the police reached the spot after getting a call from the staff."

The statement further said that the police had received a lot of complaints from the locals and traders against the Maoists and "their tendency to usurp money from the institutions related to tourism such as resorts and hotels were on a rise".

This October, three Maoists were killed in the forest areas of Attapady in Palakkad.

On October 28, Thunderbolt killed three Maoists Rema, Aravind, and Karthick from Tamil Nadu.

The next day, October 29, one more Maoist, named Manivasagam, was shot dead by the police at the same spot where the three other Maoists were killed on October 28.

Police sources said Maoists – who had opened fire at the police on Monday – fled the area but stayed near the encounter spot at night and on Tuesday morning, three of them again opened fire at the police and revenue officials when they started inquest proceedings.

“The Thunderbolts took cover when Maoists opened fire. One Maoist was killed in the retaliatory firing,” police added.

The slain Maoist was identified as Manivasagam from Tamil Nadu. He was the state secretary of CPI (Maoist) in Tamil Nadu before the formation of Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee. He was the leader of Bhavani Dalam.

Police said they had recovered arms including an assault rifle and documents from the encounter site. The inquest proceedings were delayed due to Tuesday’s encounter.

Following the encounter, state police chief Loknath Behera said there would be a crime branch probe and a magisterial inquiry into the killings as stipulated by the Supreme Court. Similar probes were conducted after the police firing at Nilambur in 2016.

CM Justifies

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan justified the October 28 & 29 shootouts. Dismissing opposition allegations that it was a fake encounter, Vijayan justified the police action saying the shootout was in self defence.

"The Maoists who got trained from other states are trying to infiltrate Kerala and disrupt the peaceful atmosphere here. The Thunderbolt (elite commando force) team was patrolling the area when the Maoists fired at them and it resulted in this unfortunate incident," Vijayan told the Assembly.

He was replying to a notice for an adjournment motion moved by the opposition seeking an independent probe into the incident.

N Shamsudheen from Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) moved the notice saying the government was shooting and killing Maoists instead of capturing them or forcing them to surrender.

"If it was an encounter, then why none of the policemen were injured? I am not saying our men in the force need to get hurt but, in this case, the Thunderbolt personnel was shooting to kill instead of the standard operating procedure of shooting at the legs," Shamsudeen said.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the CPM-led government wants to abolish the death penalty but supports such extra-judicial killings.

Talking about Jaleel’s killing in March, he said that Jaleel was shot from behind.

“It was a cold-blooded murder. This seems like an act of some officer who wants some plum posting in the centre cadre," Chennithala said.

During the Congress rule, two Maoists, Roopesh and Shina, were captured and were not killed.

"We never killed anyone when we were in power. Those two Maoists have even written a letter to me saying how well behaved the police were after their capture. I had given specific instructions that they must be considered as political prisoners," Chennithala, who was the Home Minister in the previous Congress-led government, told the House.

CPI, CPM At Loggerheads

Meanwhile, VK Sreekandan, a Congress parliamentarian from Palakkad district where the latest shootout happened, visited the forest area Wednesday evening and said there were no tell-tale signs of any shoot-out between Maoists and the police and he demanded a judicial inquiry into the whole incident.

He had uploaded a live telecast on his Facebook account too from the action scene.

“Chief Minister is lying. We can’t see any signs of a shootout here,” the parliamentarian said from the action scene.

A team from the Communist Party of India (CPI) has also planned a visit to the action scene on Friday.

CPI, a ruling coalition party, is also at loggerheads with CPM over the Maoist killings.

CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran openly rejected the government's claims, terming the shootout as a fake encounter.

Countering Vijayan’s claims, Kanam said Manivasagam was a medical patient and hence was not in a position to even lift an AK 47.

Shivani, a tribal leader in Agali, said that Manivasagam was sick, ready to surrender and claimed that Agali ASP Navneet Sharma was instrumental in initiating the surrender process.

“Mediators had talked to Manivasagam. They had replied that they would need protection after surrendering arms. Manivasagam was seriously ill,” she said, adding that the plan came to a standstill after the ASP was transferred.

“There was no need to kill them as they were willing to surrender and ready to undergo a rehab process,” she said.

“The bullet wound on his head too points to this possibility,” Kanam said adding that police encounters cannot be justified with 'meaningless arguments'.

Meanwhile, condemning the fake encounter killing of Maoists, KN Ramachandran, General Secretary of CPI (ML) Red Star said Pinarayi’s police is repeating these fake encounters in a bid to convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi that six northern districts of Kerala are really Maoist affected.

“This is a bid to get funds from Modi,” Ramachandran alleged.

According to Ramachandran, the centre has announced Rs 60 crore for Maoist-affected districts plus new equipment, special pay and awards for policemen if sufficient proof is provided that a district is really Maoist affected.

According to MHA 2018-19 Annual Report, the central government has approved Security Related Expenditure scheme for a period of three years (2017-18 to 2019-20) with substantial increase in its annual outlay to Rs 445 crore.

Under the scheme, it reimburses the state governments concerned for the expenditure incurred on ex-gratia payment to the family of civilian and security forces killed in violence, training and operational needs of security forces, insurance of police personnel, compensation to the surrendered insurgents, community policing, village defence committees and publicity material.

“It is a shame that even after its decimation in Bengal and Tripura, not taking any lessons from them, the CPI (M)’s Politbureau member leading Kerala’s LDF government indulges in such state terror to get emoluments from Modi administration on the one hand, while implementing the neoliberal policies faithfully on the other,” Ramachandran added.

Ramchandran also added that at the same time, Pinarayi is scornfully turning down the demands of Adivasis and other landless people for housing and land to cultivate.

“His government bows down to Modi’s policies and to the land mafia including Harrisons and Tatas who are keeping 5-25 lakh acres of land illegally thereby appeasing the ruling class, while showing arrogance and criminal attitude towards struggling people. The repeated fake encounters under him in a state where there were no such incidents for a decade shows to what extent he has degenerated to social fascist attitudes,” Ramachandran added.

During the recent NHRC team visit, chairperson HL Dutta had told The Lede that land struggles are the serious human rights violations they have come across.

“The land struggles put forward by tribals in the state is a serious issue. We were updated about this by many civil society organisations whom met us. We also will look into these issues seriously,” Dutta said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, Kerala police released a few pictures and videos of the October 29 action. The pictures and videos show how the police reportedly came under Maoist attack when they had gone back to the action scene to prepare an inquest. Gunshots could be heard in the video.

However, after visiting the action scene on Friday, CPI state assistant secretary Prakash Babu said that the police video claiming to be the evidence for Maoist encounter is a fabricated one.

“When we visited the place, we found that the encounter in Manjakkandi is fake. We talked with the tribals. We understood that the Maoists were shot to death by police, while they were having food,” Prakash Babu said.

“The abnormality of the visuals can be understood easily. It is hard to believe that Manivasagam fired when a huge force of Thunderbolt was present there,” Prakash Babu added.

On Friday, the NHRC said that they act on the encounter after they receive an official report from the government.

“State governments are supposed to send us a report in 48 hours. As we are here, we have no access to reports which might have come to office. So, after reaching the office and seeing the report, we will decide on future action,” Dutta told The Lede.