The year was 2011. On 24 November, when Mamata Banerjee government's police shot to death Mallojula Koteswara Rao better alias Kishanji, Polit Bureau member and head of the military wing of CPI (Maoist), CPM Polit Bureau member Mohammed Salim issued a statement that ran thus: The truth should come out about what happened. Mamata Banerjee has arranged a fake encounter to liquidate Maoist leader. And she had achieved her aim. What happened in Jamgal Mahal is a brutal murder under the leadership of the state government. People have a right to know all the facts.
What happened on Monday in Manjikkandy, Agali in Palakkad district is the third 'encounter death' witnessed by Kerala since the Pinarayi Vijayan government came into office in which Karthi, Rema, Manivasagam and Suresh, natives of Karnataka were killed. The first in the series happened on 24 November 2016, when Maoist leaders Kuppu Devaraj and Ajitha were killed in 'encounter' in Karulai forest in Nilambur. In the second incident, CP Rasheed was killed on 7 March 2019 at a resort in Lakkidi, Wayanad. The general remark that votaries of democracy would this series of 'encounter deaths' would make, is the same as made by CPM leader Mohammed Salim about Kishanji's murder." The people want to know what has actually happened". But then, rest assured of one thing: that is not going to happen.
Maoists are people out to mobile revolution through the barrel of the gun. They are those who made it into the forest with guns inspired by Mao's words of yore in mind that villages will encircle cities and thus liberation can be achieved. Though they have lofty goals and dreams, any one with a nomal way of thinking will easily comprehend that the path they chose for their goal is bizarre to the utmost. Arundhati Roy's description about them that they are 'Gandhinans bearing a gun' is right in several senses. They do not believe in democracy, but have declared armed war against the state and for that purpose have formed layers. Even as all this remains correct, as a matter of fact no government has a right to opt for illegal or extra-constitutional means to liquidate them. Ours is a constitution that is bound to offer protection even to those who oppose it.
The explanation offered by the chief minister in the assembly is that the police fired shots in self-defence at those who came to attack them. This is a typical explanation given by any related agency about any similar incident. When numerous encounter deaths had happened in Gujarat, Amit Shah who presided over all those killings, had been giving the same kind of narrative. In the present case, the version given by the tribals of the area is diametrically opposed to what the police and chief minister have portrayed. Leader of the Adivasi Action Council, Murugan told the media on Wednesday that when Maoists expressed readiness to surrender, Thunderbolt cordoned off their camp and fired shots at them. His version is that the police first used tribals for reconciliation talks with Maoists, thus located the Maoist camp and then fired shots. Shivani, leader of the Adivasi mathrusamgham repeated the same allegation. CPI, the second constituentn party of LDF, has already alleged that what happened at Manjikkandy was a fake encounter.
The chief minister and his government cannot get away from the questions by merely reading out in the assembly what the police writes for him. CPM is a party with a clear political stand regarding encounter deaths that have been discussed at national level. But, curiously enough, it is the same party's government that here engineers encouner deaths of a scale never seen before, in Kerala. The flaws in the manner in which chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been leading the police department, have been pointed out several times in this column. There are 11 incidents in which Pinarayi Vijayan has himself admitted that the police was at fault. He should re-examine whether the Maoist killings also will come under that list.
The encounter deaths of Attappadi are turning into a major political controversy. But there need be no mistake about one thing: the Congress is raising this topic not because they have a clear political stance on encounter killings. For them - like for any other opposition party – this is just another political weapon. For that reason, one should not expect any fair play or sincerity in the Opposition raising this subject. But that is not the way advocates of democracy should view the subject. True, any demand raised in this regard is ultimately doomed to fail. But even then we should keep asking questions about encounter murders. That is a desideratum for democracy to remain robust.