Kozhikode: Police started massive combing operations in the forests of Wayanad, Kannur, Malappuram and Kasargod districts on Thursday to locate Maoist groups, with the involvement of forest department personnel.
Men of the specially trained ‘Thunder Bolt Kerala’ commando force were conducting the search operations named Operation Brahmagiri at the Tirunelli jungles of the North Wayanad forest division bordering Karnataka on Thursday afternoon.
The team is headed by assistant commandant L. Solomon and includes, among others, the SP, A.V. George, DySP A.R. Premkumar, and divisional forest officer A. Shanawas.
Police said a plan was already on the anvil. The Maoist groups were located by locals in an estate bordering Karnataka jungles on February 1.
Kerala on Maoist radar
Thiruvananthapuram: Nine months ago, the Ministry of Home Affairs had warned that CPI Maoists were trying to revive activities deep in the south, especially in Karnataka,Tamil Nadu and Kerala. And if the latest reports on suspected Maoists movement in areas bordering Karnataka are to be believed, the MHA seems to be close to the mark.
Security agencies have all along claimed that Maoists were trying to expand their activities under South West Regional Bureau (SWRB) and their main task was to link the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats. Their idea was to set up a base on the Kerala-Karnataka border by creating a forest route from Wayanad to Mysore .
Police officials say the Western Ghats stretch in Karnataka has some of the widest and deepest forests which are considered ideal for Maoist operations. Naxals are expanding their activities in Kerala, Nilgiris and Krishnagiri districts of Tamil Nadu besides Kodagu, Hassan and Chamarajanagar in Karnataka with an aim to link the two ghats.
If the reports that plantation workers came across 26 armed Maoists are true, then there is reason for security agencies to worry. The presence of armed militia indicates that the Maoist activities have reached a higher level. “As of now we don’t have any concrete information about Maoist presence. Combing operations by the Thunderbolt Commando force are progressing in our forest area. We have also tightened security around 15 police stations and forest offices’’, said Wayanad SP A.V. George.
Kannur range IG, Jose George and Kannur SP Rahul R.Nair are coordinating the anti-Naxal operations. Even though the combing operation has not been able to trace any Maoist presence so far, the fact that plantation workers had encountered the group of suspected armed Maoists including a Malayali has set alarm bells ringing for the state police.
“The plantation workers’ statement seems to be true. We are in the process of collecting more details from them to trace their location with the help of Karnataka counterparts. But there are no fresh leads as of now’’, said N.Sankar Reddy, ADGP North Zone.
There has been no major Naxal activity in the state since the 1970s. But top Maoist leaders reportedly use the state as a safe haven. In December 2007, cops nabbed Malla Raji Reddy alias Sattenna, a top Naxal leader, from Angamaly. In fact former DGP Jacob Punnose had pointed to the presence of extremists in the state’s forests. But the police had no evidence regarding any extremist activity.
“We had carried out combing operations earlier also. There were reports regarding their activities in the forest areas of Wayanad, especially places bordering Karnataka’’, he said.
But a section of human rights activists say the reports regarding Naxal presence are engineered. “The police, the media and the government want such stories for obvious reasons. The government wants to divert the attention of people from the real issues while the media wants to sell it for increasing revenue’’, said Civic Chandran.
He said Naxalites lost Kerala in the 1970s and there was no question of their revival. “We are a post-Maoist society. Even the tribals and Dalits have their own strong movements which were proved during the Muthanga and Chengara struggle. There is no space for Maoists in the state’s political sphere’’, he added.
But the police is not ready to buy the theory. Top police officials say the South Western Regional Bureau of Naxals was making forays into the south to expand the Red Corridor and only a coordinated effort from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka can foil their designs, they point out.