KOCHI: When you enter the Nilambur forest in Kerala, you will immediately draw your breath at the sheer beauty of the place. There are tall rosewood, mahogany and teak trees. Some of them soar so high that the sunlight is blocked. The shrill cry of birds is heard all the time. The air is pure and clean. People say that elephants roam around at will. But on May 7, 2012, the state police received some disturbing news. Armed men, belonging to a Maoist outfit, were seen roaming around in the forests.
But the state had been on a vigilant mode from mid-2011. They had heard that the Maoists were planning to establish a presence in Kerala. A secret meeting was reportedly held between Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)and the CPI-Maoist leaders at Kottayam in June 2011. The two groups had earlier met at Palakkad and decided on a joint action. The police had also received information that a man and his wife were leading the underground Maoist movement in the state. This turned out to be Roopesh and Shyna. They were arrested from Coimbatore last Monday. Roopesh is one of the most wanted persons in the state. The police said that he was involved in almost all the cases registered against the Maoists in the past three years.
“The government had officially confirmed the Maoist presence in the state on February 18, 2013,” Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told the Assembly about the intent of setting up an action force against the threat. In fact, within weeks, the state had deployed its elite commando force, Thunderbolt. However, in March, Roopesh confirmed that the rebels had formed a new zone in South India. Immediately, the state intelligence issued an alert to 45 police stations. The government then appointed IG Suresh Raj Purohit as the nodal officer and SP Putta Vimaladithya as the in-charge of ground operations. “We have appointed the best officers in the field of anti-militant activities to tackle the menace,” said Radhakrishnan.
In the beginning of 2014, the authorities found that the number of armed persons had increased. “There is a meticulously woven Maoist network in the state. We are looking at every possibility to tackle them,” said Purohit.
Police personnel in the forest borders of Malappuram district were given training to use AK-47 rifles. The Intelligence had warned about a possible attack against Purohit. The government immediately strengthened the security for him.
The first reported threat against the police came on April 24, 2014 when a group of Maoists threatened a police officer and his mother at their residence in Wayanad.
Then Roopesh spoke about launching an armed struggle in a video message given to the television channels in the state. The first open attack by the Maoists took place on November 10, 2014, when they vandalised the corporate office of Nitta Gelatin India Limited (NGIL) at Kochi.The next attack took place in Wayanad. A private tourist resort in Thirunelli was vandalised on November 18, 2014.
The first fire exchange between the police and the Naxalites took place in the Kunjootu Chappan colony near Mananthavadi in Wayanad district on December 7, 2014. The Maoists launched three simultaneous attacks in Palakkad and Waynad districts on December 22 the same year. They had also attacked a forest range office at Mukkali in the Silent Valley, and KFC and McDonald’s outlets at Chandragiri in Palakkad district. They vandalised the forest aid post at Kunjom in Wayanad on the same day.
The state has witnessed four more attacks by Maoists in 2015. These include the attack on an office of the National Highway Authority of India, Kalamasseri, near Kochi. So, it was a big breakthrough when the police were able to arrest Roopesh and his associates. “Roopesh is a key person,” said Purohit. The Kerala police have started an effort to get Roopesh in their custody so that they get details about the various Maoist incidents. They believe it will shed light on the Maoist operations in the state.
Influencing The Tribals
The Maoists have tried to influence the tribes in the forest areas of the state by interfering in their life issues. They have asked banks to stop recovery proceedings against farmers in the Wayanad district. The ultras have also spent time in the tribal colonies in Malappuram district and collected rice and food materials from them. They have also distributed notices asking them to start a revolution against the government which, they said, has denied basic amenities to them.