A suspected Maoist was shot dead by thunderbolt commandos of Kerala Police in Wayanad district on Tuesday morning in return fire after a group of more than five armed Maoist operatives opened fire at them, the police said.
An official communication from the police identified the Maoist killed as Velmurugan, 33, a native of Periyakulam in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district.
An officer said Tamil Nadu police and Velmurugan’s brother Murugan, a lawyer in Madurai, have identified the victim’s photograph.
The police said Velmurugan was in a list of wanted Maoists in Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, several cases pertaining to spotting of Maoists in tribal settlements and villages were pending against him in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur districts, the police said.
Opposition Congress and human rights activists alleged that Velmurugan was killed in a fake encounter and sought a judicial probe into the incident.
According to police, on Tuesday morning a Maoist gang opened fire at a thunderbolt team which has been combing the forest region under Padinjarethara police limits in Wayanad. The police said that the gang shot first, and they returned fire. The encounter lasted for a while before the gang retreated to the forest area, the police said.
When the police searched the encounter site, they found the body of Velumurugan, it was informed. A rifle was also recovered, the police said.
Human rights forum president, advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, sought a comprehensive and transparent probe into the encounter. He maintained that the police’s version – that a person was killed when they returned fire in self-defence – is “suspicious”. Asserting that there is an attempt to destroy evidence and turn things in favour of the police, Sarathy said it is “disturbing” that a Communist government is giving support for such “anti-democratic and dangerous actions”.
The media and the public were not allowed to go near the encounter site; late at night the body was shifted out of the forest after inquest proceedings. The thunderbolt team has been camping in forest belts of the region in order to arrest the growth of Maoist presence in the forests.
Padinjarethara panchayat president P G Sajesh said Maoist operatives used to visit the villagers often, seeking food and provisions. They have not hurt any villager so far, Sajesh added.
Tuesday’s was the fourth encounter killing of Maoist operatives since 2016, when the LDF government assumed office. Four Maoists had been killed in an encounter in Palakkad in October last year. In March last year, the police shot a Maoist operative who had allegedly gone to extort at a resort in Wayanad district. In November 2016, two Maoists were killed in an encounter in the Nilambur forests in Malappuram district.
Among the eight killed, only one Maoist operative – C P Jaleel – who was killed in Wayanad last year, came from Kerala. The others belonged to neighbouring states and were camping in the tri-junction of Kerala-Tamil Nadu- Karnataka forests, according to the police.
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