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Encounter deaths in Left-ruled Kerala

Encounter deaths in Left-ruled Kerala

Mother of Velmurugan, who was killed in an encounter in Wayanad on Tuesday, cries in front of the mortuary at Medical College in Kozhikode. Photo credit: PTI

Encounter killing of Maoists is continuing in Kerala. Thirty-five year old Maoist Velmurugan from Theni, Tamil Nadu is the latest victim who died in Padinjarathara, Wayanad. The police say that at 6 o'clock on Tuesday morning, near the Meenmutti Water falls in Kappikkulam, near Padinjarathara, the Maoist group saw the police doing a routine combing, and fired at the squad; and in the return firing in an encounter, he was killed. There is no information available other than this police version. Mediamen who arrived near the scene on knowing the incident were blocked two kilometres away. On 9 March last year, a Maoist leader CP Jaleel was killed in a firing incident in Upavan Resort in Vythiri, Wayanad. This is the fourth incident since the left government came to power in Kerala under Pinarayi Vijayan, in which Communist extremists – Maoists - get killed. On November 24, 2015 in the forest region of Karulayi, Malappuram, two persons, Kuppu Devaraj and Ajita were killed. In 2019, CP Jaleel in Vythiri met with a similar fate. On October 28 and 29, in Manjakkandy, Attappidi, Palakkad the police shot to death four people from Tamil Nadu, Rema, Aravind, Karthi and Manivasagan. There are certain common features in all the incidents. The outside world come to know of it only the next day through the police that there was an encounter between the police's Thunderbolt unit and Maoists. And the police never allow any enquiry into whether was anything to know beyond its version. As it happened in Kappikkulam on Tuesday, last year in the firing in Vythiri and Kanjakkandy also no one was let in to the site of the incident.

Human rights organisations and the Opposition charge that the area is being cordoned off because the entire police story is fabricated. The latter day facts that emerged about earlier encounters lend strength to this allegation. Through the forensic report of September 28 last year, it was revealed that everything that the police claimed about the death of Jaleel was wrong. The police charge had been that the Maoist gang who reached the Vythiri resort fired at the police and Jaleel was killed in the ensuing encounter. But the report revealed that no shot was fired from the gun which the police produced as Jaleel's; if that had been the case, there would have been marks of it in his hand or other parts of the body and the investigation could not confirm that. In the interim came the killing of four people. On that occasion, none other than Kanam Rajendran the state secretary of the ruling coalition partner CPI, and its assistant secretary K Prakash Babu called a press meet and alleged that the encounter was fake and it was a one-sided attack. They pointed out that the extremist camp which the police singled out at in Attappadi was one built by the police a few days before the attack and the police were killing the Maoists while they were having food.

It was along the lines of the Centre's massive preparations to counter Communist extremism that the 'Thunderbolts' operation unit got deployed in the forest region bordering Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In 2016, at the regional council meeting of south Indian states that met at Thiruvananthapuram, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought the Centre's permission for a special battalion to take on left extremism, but the Modi government rejected it. Already the Centre is extending huge aid for the defence against Naxalites. Thus all the major Maoist hunting operations the elite Thunderbolts conducted so far, and backed by such extensive machinery, are under the shadow of doubt. Kerala High Court had in a May 2015 judgment stated that even though the political philosophy of Maoists is inconsistent with the Constitution, it is not a crime to be a Maoist. The court had also observed that the manner of chasing Maoists like hunters was a crime in uniform, and through that the protectors were becoming aggressors. But later, after the left government took office in Kerala, the hunting of left extremists and encounter deaths only increased. These brutal killings, that do not seem to stir major protests, point at a situation in which any one with a Maoist stigma can be shot to death. The practice of killing through unlawful encounters those who have to be persuaded to lawful paths, does prevail in certain states where jungle raj rules. Has the leftist government in Kerala, used to shouting from rooftops for democracy and progressive stands, also decided that that is the way to counter left extremists?

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TAGS:Encounter deathWayanadVelmurugan Thenifabricated encounters
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