On the eve of the 22nd anniversary of Kuthuparamba firing in which five CPI(M) activists were shot dead by the police, Kerala Police under CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front killed two Maoist activists in an alleged encounter inside Nilambur forest in Malappuram district. CPI-Maoist central committee member Kuppu Devaraj and other activist Ajitha were killed on 24 November.
For last many months, the special police force was concentrating in Nilambur area to wipe out the ‘Maoist menace’ in the Western Ghat area.
The Kerala police chief Loknath Behra termed this a great achievement of the police. Coming as it did after a series of ‘encounter’ killing in different parts of the country, the Nilambur incident has also raised serious questions on how Indian democracy is dealing with political dissidents. Unlike in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and in Gujarat, this happened in a left ruled state raises questions about the sincerity of CPI(M)'s known position on encounter killings.
When SIMI activists were killed in an alleged encounter early this month in Bhopal, CPI(M) leaders were quick to condemn it and the party raised serious questions which punctured the police logic. And in Kerala, under the watchful eyes of the home department which is controlled by the CPI(M) politburo member and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, two people are killed in an alleged encounter. Speaking to SouthLive, human right activist Teesta Setalvad terms it a brutal display of state power.
The brutal extra-judicial killing of a young woman with 19 bullets and a man with many more is a shocking display of the arrogance of state power. It is particularly shocking since it is coming from the state’s police in Kerala. State across the political spectrum there has been a brutalisation in the law enforcement forces signalling the worst levels of unaccountabilityTeesta Setalvad
Human rights organizations are pointing fingers towards the policy of CPI(M).“This shows the double standard of the CPI(M),” says human rights activist and writer T T Sreekumar.
Chief Minister Pinaryai must spell out what his government’s policy is when it comes to extra-judicial killings. The government must order an independent inquiry into Nilambur encounter killingT T Sreekumar, Writer
Not just human rights activists, but state ruling LDF ally CPI has also sharply criticised police action in Nilambur which led to the killing of two Maoist activists. Kanam Rajendran, state secretary of CPI, said the practice of killing dissidents in other states should not be replicated in Kerala.
“People elected LDF government not for doing what Narendra Modi and his party has been doing in several parts of the country. LDF government’s policy is not to kill those who have different political view points.Kanam Rajendran, CPI State Secretary
After police leaked the news of encounter killing, human rights and other political activists were quick to pick holes in the police theory. In order to control the narrative given by them, the Kerala police has not allowed media persons to visit the site of ‘encounter’.
The police selectively released photos of the dead raising suspicion in their encounter theory. The veil of secrecy the police and home department has put on the Nilambur incident is almost akin to what has been happening in other encounter killings be it in Gujarat or in Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh. The civil society groups and some political parties had also demanded a judicial inquiry into the killing. But despite severe doubts about the police claims of encounter killing, the left government had not heeded to that demand. Instead what it has done is to order a magisterial inquiry.
The post-mortem report has lent credence to the doubts expressed by these political leaders and human rights activists about the police version of the incident. The autopsy found that 19 bullet injuries on Ajitha’s body and six bullets were recovered from her body. There were 11 wounds on Devarajan’s body. This shows that automatic rifles were used by the Police.
What is more worrying the civil rights groups is the stand taken by the CPI(M) after the incident. No leader has expressed any doubts about the police version even after the autopsy report came out which clearly punctures the argument put forward by the state police. This smacks of multi-speak, CPI(M) resorts to, when it comes to the issues like human rights and political dissent, argues T T Sreekumar.
It is ironical that on the one hand, they said that the party is against capital punishment and at the same time the state is turning the Kerala police into a Khap Panchayat by giving permission to this kind of atrocitiesT T Sreekumar, Writer
Meena Kandasamy, author, tells SouthLive that it is not question of left or right or centre.
To me, it’s not a question of left or right or centre. the state does not have the right to kill. The state does not have the right to execute in such an arbitrary fashion.Meena Kandasamy, Author
But what annoys several people including leaders from the ruling front is the the manner in which the CPI (M) is downplaying the incident. The party which talk about human rights at the national level, has been accused of highhanded approaches towards political dissidents whenever ever they are in power.
When LDF was in power, in 2009 six people belonging to Muslim community were killed in police firing.
And now, much to the chagrin of the human rights groups, several people who do not subscribe to mainstream political narrative are being arrested and slapped Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on flimsy grounds. What is happening in Kerala is against the spirit of the judicial pronouncements, says veteran journalist and human right activist BRP Bhaskar.
Even the judiciary has made it clear that being a supporter of the Maoist ideology would not make anyone guilty under the law. This operation is not based on the reports of any Maoist atrocities. So, there should be a thorough inquiry into the matter as there are contradictions even in the statement by the state actors.BRP Bhaskar, journalist and human right activist
During the last two to three years Maoists have carried out several attacks in Kerala. Their targets have ranged from forest department offices in Palakkad and Wayanad districts, which they vandalised, to local Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds’ outlets.
They also attacked the Kochi head office of Nita Gelatin, a company that was already facing the ire of locals for polluting the environment. Several people were arrested after these incidents. Organisations like Porattam which the intelligence agencies believe as the cover of Maoist groups have been put under severe surveillance.
To the Maoists, the Western Ghats has great strategic importance as the geographical terrain is suitable for taking on the security forces militarily even as the political terrain, too, is apt, given the predominantly Adivasi population that lives in conditions of extreme distress. Even the police have said the area is conducive for clandestine operations. And with the government soft peddling on the reports on Western Ghats environmental protection, many mining companies are trying are trying to start operations in the area and the Maoist hope to cash in on the disenchantment of the local Adivasis and mobilise them.
This become important for them because the crackdown gets more intense in the “Red corridor” that goes all the way from the Odhisa -Andhra Pradesh border region to Jharkhand to the forests of Dandakaranya.
But many doubt their strategy of working deep inside the forest relying solely on the guerrilla war fare.
I think after malkangiri, the Maoist movement has to ask itself serious questions: does guerrilla warfare work? are the category of “exploited people” to be found only in the forests of India? As much as I respect idealism, I’m not sure laying down lives and becoming sitting ducks for a trigger-hungry police force is going to cause a revolutionMeena Kandasamy
BRP Bhasker says time has come for the Maoist group to introspect.
Maoist activities in Adivasi areas and police operations have put the tribal life in misery. Both Maoist and the state must should reinvent themselves progressively. And the Militants should introspect about its modus operandi.BRP Bhaskar
Whether or not the underground Maoist group is ready to rework their strategy in their fight for an egalitarian society, what is more troubling now is the way the state apparatus is handling the political dissidents. And despite the rhetoric about tolerance, democracy and human rights, the latest incident in Nilambur also proves that CPI(M) is just another political party which functions to carry out ruling class agenda.
With inputs from Ajmal Abbas