By Fakir Mohan Pradhan :-
The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has owned responsibility for a series of violent actions in Kerala towards the end of 2014 and beginning 2015, for which authorities had earlier ‘suspected’ Maoist involvement. In the latest issue of People’s March (Vol.13, No 3, Jan-March 2015), the Maoists claim,
Overcoming innumerable obstacles and snatching initiative, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) fighters and urban action team combatants led by the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) of the CPI (Maoist) have opened up a new warfront in the State of Keralam (sic), situated along the South Western coast of India. Some of these actions were done in broad day light through bold and rapid moves in urban centres, stunning the enemy and enthusing the people…… These actions were carried out as part of a Politico Military Campaign (PMC) carried out over a three month period, from November 2014 till January 2015. The aim of the campaign was to prepare the masses for the revolutionary war, defeat the initiative and aggressiveness of the enemy armed forces and advance the revolutionary movement. In the course of this campaign fighters of the PLGA engaged a section of the Thunderbolts in a fire fight and successfully retreated without loss or injury, while throwing the adversary into panicked flight.
Accepting failure of earlier attempts to gain a foothold in the South [Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala], the Maoists continue,
The successful completion of the PMC marks a qualitative turn in the expansion of the people’s war led by the CPI (Maoist) in the country as well as an overcoming of the stagnation faced in the armed struggle initiated in the Western Ghats more than a decade ago in the Malnad region of Karnataka.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Kerala recorded one LWE-related fatality in 2014 – a senior CPI-Maoist leader from Kerala, Sinoj alias Rajan, was killed in an accidental blast while assembling explosives in the deep forests of Wayanad District on June 16. The State had not recorded any fatalities in the preceding few years and so far in 2015. However, nine LWE-related incidents of violence were recorded in 2014 and four incidents have so far been recorded in 2015.
Some of the violent incidents include:
January 30: The office of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at Kalamassery in Kochi, Ernakulam District, was vandalized by unidentified miscreants claiming to be affiliated to CPI-Maoist. The attackers left pamphlets protesting against the acquisition of land for National Highway expansion and privatization of public organizations.
January 25: The reception counter and restaurant of Tamarind Easy Hotel, at Thirunelli, owned by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), was vandalized by a six-member gang. They left posters protesting against the India visit of US President Barack Obama.
January 2: A stone crusher unit at Nedumpoyil in Kannur District was vandalised and set afire by a gang of five CPI-Maoist cadres.
On the same day, a group of Maoists vandalised and ransacked a Government office in the Kannur District of Kerala. They first tied up security personnel and vandalised the office. The group left after taking away the CCTV cameras and raising pro-Maoist slogans.
December 22: CPI-Maoist cadres launched three simultaneous attacks in Palakkad and Wayanad Districts. A 15-member armed group barged into the Forest Range office at Mukkali near Silent Valley in Palakkad District and burned files and damaged computers and furniture at around 1.30 am.
The forest aid post at Kunjom under Vellamunda Police Station in Wayanad District also came under attack in the morning of December 22. The Maoists left copies of Kaattuthee (Wild Fire), the official bulletin of the Kabani dalam (armed squad) of CPI-Maoist.
Another group of seven persons ransacked the KFC and McDonalds outlets at Chandragiri in Palakkad city. Members of the group who covered their faces smashed the glass doors of the outlets and distributed leaflets urging the people to fight ‘agents of US imperialism’.
December 7: Kerala Police Commandos exchanged fire with suspected CPI-Maoist cadres in a tribal forest settlement at the Kunjootu Chappan colony under the Vellamunda Police Station limits of Mananthavady Taluk (adminstrative unit) in Wayanad District.
November 18: Six persons barged into the Agraharam Resort at Tirunelly in the Wayanad District of Kerala and broke the windowpanes of the resort’s office building, staff quarters and reception centre. They also damaged the furniture, computer, printer and other equipment kept in the office. They left after sticking wall-posts and posters declaring the celebration of the CPI-Maoist’s 10th anniversary and demanding land for the landless.
November 10: The corporate office of Nitta Gelatin India Ltd. (NGIL) at Panampilly Nagar in Kochi was ransacked by a group of nine masked men, suspected to be CPI-Maoist cadres, causing extensive damage. A press note purportedly released by the WGSZC in Thrissur claimed that an ‘urban action team’ under the Committee had carried out the attack.
It is significant that the December 7 incident was the only exchange of fire between Security Forces and the Maoists.
There have been many occasions when locals have sighted Maoists, generally in a group of around five-six persons in military fatigues or in black clothes asking for food, or talking to villagers about reach of Government welfare schemes, etc. On several such occasions, the Police have trailed the Maoists, but only to draw a blank.
Clearly, there are concerns for the State. The merger of the CPI-Maoist and the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist – Naxalbari (CPI-ML-Naxalbari), under the CPI-Maoist banner, on May 1, 2014, should have made the State sit up and take note. CPI-ML-Naxalbari has long had an independent presence in Kerala, and the Maoists believe that the merger would provide them the resource and manpower needed to secure a foothold in the Sahyadri Hills and the Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu tri-junction area. The recent attacks indicate initiatives in this direction.
On their part, the Police has made two arrests in connection with the NHAI project office attack case and another two in the NGL attack case. In the NHAI project office attack, the accused – two ‘civil rights activists’ – advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department – have been released on bail by the Kerala High Court. However, in the NGL attack case, the accused persons – Sreekanth Prabhakaran, a B.Ed student, and Arun Balan, a journalism student – are still behind bars. In a separate case, the Kerala High Court quashed the charges against Swiss national Jonathan Baud, who was arrested on July 28, 2014, for his ‘links’ with the Maoists.
Police claim that the CPI-Maoist was planning to attack various Government institutions and officials through its Urban Action Team. Police also claim that the Maoists are using the Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samithi [Association for Protection of Democracy] as a front for their violent activities.
Meanwhile, observing that activities of the CPI-Maoist in Kerala have increased manifold, a 17-page Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) note said that the situation in the State had the potential of becoming more serious if immediate preventive measures are not taken. The Ministry emphasised that, in recent times, the Maoists had been focusing on the southern theatre at the Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu tri-junction.
However, in the assessment of the Kerala State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, though CPI-Maoist presence had been identified in some pockets in the Western Ghats region of the State, they were yet to influence the public, including tribesmen, in the areas. Nevertheless, they were trying to influence youth in the cities.
Based on the underground and over ground activities of the Maoists, nine Districts in the State, viz., Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod, can be categorized as marginally affected.
In a bid to counter the CPI-Maoist, Kerala has decided to recruit tribal people directly to the Police force, and to adopt a ‘two-pronged strategy’ to deal with the issue. On February 21, 2014, a direction was issued to the Police to fortify 16 Police Stations in north Kerala on ‘a war footing’. The Government also ordered 300 armed Policemen to the region to provide ‘perimeter defence and support’ to Thunderbolts Kerala, the special weapons and tactics team of the State Police, which was spearheading what the Government termed ‘anti-Naxal operations’. The State is also taking necessary precautionary measures to monitor links between migrant workers and Maoists.
The recent spurt in Maoist activities in Kerala are to be seen in the light of the Maoists’ declaration of opening up a new war front, and the merger of the CPI-Maoist and the CPI-ML-Naxalbari under the CPI-Maoist banner. The Maoists accept that their preliminary aim is to prepare the masses for the revolutionary war, and will attempt to expand their mass base in the area; it is clear, however, that they are preparing for the long haul.
* Fakir Mohan Pradhan – Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).