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Kerala’s Maoists, and how they differ from their comrades elsewhere

Thunderbolt commandos of the Kerala Police killed four alleged Maoists in back-to-back encounters in the Attappadi forests of the state’s Palakkad district. The four individuals, including a woman, belonged to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

This was the third encounter between police and Maoists in Kerala in almost three years.

Over the last decade or so, Kerala has seen overt and covert Maoist activities in the northern districts of Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Palakkad, and Malappuram.

Beginnings of Naxalism
The ripples of the Naxalbari uprising in North Bengal in the late 1960s reached Kerala as well. North Kerala, including Wayanad, was a hotbed of the ultra-Left movement, and A Varghese, a CPM leader who turned to Naxalism, and K Ajitha, who is now a prominent feminist activist, inspired a series of revolts against landlords. The so-called ‘Spring Thunder’, however, suffered a blow when Varghese, who had won the hearts of tribals, was killed in an encounter — which was subsequently revealed to have been fake — in 1970.

Leaflets and addresses
The nature of Maoist operations in Kerala is different from that in other LWE-affected states. They have never targeted civilians or caused human casualties, and use the trijunction of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka — where a seamless forest cover and difficult terrain hamper policing — as a safe organisational and transit hub. Forest patches in Palakkad, Malappuram, and Wayanad are part of this trijunction.

They typically enter villages or tribal hamlets bordering forests, address the local people, and distribute leaflets in an attempt to drive home the argument for an armed struggle against the state.

They have not, however, had any significant success in winning over youths in the tribal hamlets, for which several factors are responsible: the socio-economic profile and standard of living of tribals in Kerala is far better than elsewhere, and improved policing and greater socialisation of tribal youths make recruitment difficult.

The Maoists mostly return to the jungles after collecting provisions from the villages.

Some stray activities
There have been stray cases of Maoist attacks on resorts and stone quarrying units alleged to be operating illegally or encroaching on lands of tribals. Forest outposts too, have been occasionally targeted. Police sometimes register cases against identifiable Maoists, based on complaints from local people.

Sympathy and support
As Maoists have not shed civilian blood in Kerala, their movement enjoys significant support. Kerala Maoists get logistic and ideological backing from legal organisations, as well as from human rights activists. Police killings of alleged Maoists and cases against them are invariably questioned, and human rights activists often conduct a parallel probe into encounter killings. The CPI, an ally of the ruling CPI(M), has always questioned police action against Maoists.

Source: The Indian Express

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Internal Security



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