NEW DELHI: After 40 long years, the spectre of red terror looms over Kerala. And unlike in the past, efforts to contain a possible Maoist rampage are falling far short of what is the need of the hour. Facing the heat in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the red terrorists are making forays into Kerala—the focus being on the three districts of Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur—in a bid to find a safe haven. A latest intelligence report reveals that the banned outfit is gradually expanding cadre strength in the tribal dominated region on the border of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
A senior intelligence officer said an assessment was launched by the Centre after Maoist leader Sinoj alias Ramesan was accidently killed while making IEDs at a Naxal hideout near the Karnataka border in June. The intelligence operatives came to know about the death only in July, triggering panic in the security establishment. Sinoj, who was also member of the Kerala state committee of the CPI (Maoist), was trained in Jharkhand in 2010. Subsequently, he was entrusted with the responsibility of raising a guerrilla unit to dominate Tri-junction.
Although the political leadership in Kerala has taken steps to flush out Maoists, intelligence officials said the police approach in dealing with the serious security issue was disheartening. “Several inputs provided by the intelligence agencies to check Maoist penetration in the region was not acted upon. Naxalites, who earlier possessed country-made pistols, now have acquired AK-47s from Naxal’s Technical Research Arms Manufacturing (TRAM) unit in Chhattisgarh. Though, dedicated armed cadre remain around 20-25, there is input suggesting more sympathisers are joining the outfit,” the officer added.
But, state police officers reject Central charges claiming that the anti-Maoist operations are going on in full swing and the state police is maintaining close tie ups with locals to monitor suspicious activities.
“Police are maintaining a close rapport with the tribes living deep in the forest. We hope we can trap the armed persons roaming in the forest through them,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Perinthalmanna, who is in charge at police stations covering Nilambur forest region.
However, State Police Intelligence Unit conceded that ultras held a training camp in July first week in the Nilambur forest region in Malappuram district, hardly a week after state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told the Assembly about Maoist presence in the forest region of Malabar. Police officers claimed the local tribals had earlier identified a most-wanted Maoists leader when photographs were shown to them. This further bolsters the Centre’s claims which suggested that Maoist have already set up camps in north Karnataka and were opening up a jungle route connecting the three states operations under Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC).
“Maoists sympathisers have grown in the last 6 months, especially after merger of CPI Maoists and CPI-ML (Naxalbari) in May, 2014. CPI-ML (Naxalbari) is active in the state and we have noticed that a well- planned strategic campaign by distributing pamphlets, literature and other materials to lure local tribals into their fold,” intelligence sources said.
The report has also pointed out a supply-route between Maoists cadres in the three districts of Kerala and the outfit’s base in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Raichur and Bellary of Karnataka where ultras have been active for over a decade. The report also named Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) as the brain behind Maoist propaganda in Kerala and Karnataka besides other offshoots.
Kerala was first penetrated by the Maoists in the late 60s and early 70s when Waynad became the foundation ground for Red Movement with K Ajitha, a Maoist leader and then the face of left-wing extremism in Kerala taking the charge of guerrilla movement in the forest region. Ajitha actively participated in guerrilla attack and was part of the team which attacked Pulpally police station in Waynad in late 1968.
In the 1980s, the Naxalite movement was considerably weakened in the state but it remain the fertile ground for Maoists recruitments.