Police have intensified search operations in the forest regions in North Kerala’s Wayanad district following Sunday’s exchange of fire between police and suspected Maoist activists. On Sunday evening, police had fired several rounds at a Maoist gang in a forest tract under Vellamunda police limits in Wayanad.
Since the above-stated forest belt is situated close to forest regions in Kozhikode and Kannur districts, police forces from those districts too are engaged in the combing operations in their respective areas, police said.
Kerala’s special police force, Thunderbolt, is assisted by local police. As last night’s search drew nothing, more forces have joined the operation on Monday morning.
Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told the state assembly that the police were equipped to tackle Maoist menace. “The Maoists have concentrated in the forest region which is a tri-junction of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Hence, the necessity of a combined operation would be raised with home ministers in other two states.”
Chennithala said the Maoists had fired at the police while they were on a routine combing operation.
A tribal youth at Chapra colony at Vellamunda told TV channels that he had heard gunshots from the neighbouring forest region on Sunday evening. Local people at Chapra claimed that strange persons used to visit their colony, which do not have basic facilities. They said Maoists were trying to cash in on the poverty and underdevelopment in the colony.
Sunday’s gunshots and reported Maoist activity in the region suddenly spurred the people to think about development. On Monday, people at Chapra waylaid people’s representatives of local village panchayat as protest against their failure to bring in development.
Although police and intelligence agencies confirm Maoist presence in North Kerala districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Attappadi tribal belt in Palakkad, so far they could not nab anyone.
There has been a pattern for Maoist story in Kerala. Four or five men would troop into a tribal hamlet. They would lecture against government machinery and would leave after taking rice and some other basic provisions. They would also distribute some leaflets containing Maoist stuff.
As the report reaches them, police would rush to the tribal area, where the Maoists had visited, and start a combing operation. Police would show photographs of few Maoists leaders to the tribal men or farmers and police would claim that these local men had recognized the strangers as dreaded Maoists, who are facing lookout notices. After search for a day or two, they would return to the camp empty handed.
A few days later or a few weeks later, a similar drama would be heard from another village in North Kerala. In many occasions, several innocent persons had been suspected as Maoists and detained by police. Last year, a teacher working at tribal school at Nilambur in Malappuram had gone to Dalit colonies to inform them about an event in the school. She distributed some notices in the colonies. As the report about the outsider distributing notices at tribal colony spread, police rushed to the spot only to face the embarrassing situation. In another incident, police had suspected a few research scholars as Maoists and detained them for several hours in Wayanad.
In April this year, the State Intelligence unit in Wayanad had issued a lookout notice for Maoists, which included 40 persons. The list had drawn widespread criticism as it included several political leaders and human rights activists. Those in the lookout notice included CPI leader Boby Thomas, anti-endosulfan agitation committee leader N Subramanian and People’s Union of Civil Liberties state general secretary advocate P A Pauran.
In July this year, police had arrested a Swiss national named Jonathan Baud, after he attended a public meeting held in memory of a Maoist leader. Last week the high court had quashed the case against him and criticized the state police for falsely foisting the charge of violation of visa condition on the foreign national. He was slapped with sections of visa rules as police could not establish his Maoist relation.