How Real is the Threat of Maoists Expanding Their Base in Kerala? Here's What Intel Reports Say

Representative image.

Representative image.

An intel report submitted said that due to frequent operations by (forces of) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Naxals were forced to flee towards the jungle areas of Kerala.

Suhas Munshi
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New Delhi: A statement made by a district secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Kerala two days ago has caused a political upheaval in the state.

The ruling CPI(M) has come under criticism from various political outfits and Muslim groups over the statement made by the party’s Kozhikode secretary, P Mohanan, on Tuesday that "Islamic extremists” are providing fodder to Maoists in Kerala.

While the accusation made by Mohanan has still not been substantiated, the growing concern about Maoist activities in Kerala is a fact the security agencies have been highlighting both at the central and state level for several years now.

During multiple meetings, the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), the nodal body at the Centre for sharing intelligence inputs, has raised the issue of Naxals migrating from the Dandakaranya zone, mainly concentrated in south Bastar, towards what is referred to the KKT (Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu) axis.

But of all the three states, Kerala has repeatedly been highlighted as the state where the increase in Maoist migration and arms training has been most active. A special division of the Naxals Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) is reported to be actively working to recruit and train cadres in the area.

According to an intelligence report, released late in 2018, in the Western Ghats, where senior cadres began to set up base almost a decade ago, “the situation is degraded” to a point where “in a few years, Naxalism will have a consolidated front in the Western Ghats and tri-junction area.”

There are five main reasons for this:

- Maoists have created their base and training grounds deep inside the tri-junction jungles – the space that was occupied and ruled over by the infamous sandalwood smuggler Verappan for over three decades.

- While the other two states have, in course of dealing with Veerappan, developed significant intelligence and know-how of the terrain inside the dense jungles, Kerala has comparatively little ground sense of the situation.

- Kerala possess relatively milder fire and manpower in comparison to Maoists, allowing them over time to take greater risks and run an extortion racket from the local tourism industry.

- The dense jungles of the KKT tri-junction do not have clearly marked boundaries. The obvious impediment in tracking down Maoist activities in one’s own boundaries is further compounded by the lack of intel-sharing between the three states.

- Intel agencies have also raised issues about Maoism spreading the fastest in places which have least government penetration and consequently, maximum dissatisfaction against the state.

As it happens, all these districts fall in Kerala – Wayannad, Mallapuram, Kannur, Kozhikode and Palakkad districts of Kerala.

An intel report submitted to Kerala said, “Due to frequent operations by (forces of) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Naxals were forced to flee towards the jungle areas of Kerala. But for Kerala, combing operation is new to them and requires assistance. Kerala has vast jungle areas that are unexplored.”

“As of now, the situation is getting degrading and in a few years, Naxalism will have a consolidated front in Western Ghats and tri-junction area,” the report added.

Multiple alerts on arms training being given to cadres in the jungles of the tri-junction have been raised over the last two years. While forces are yet to confirm the presence of central committee members of CPI (Maoist) in these jungles, regular operations in south Bastar and surrender of senior leaders like Sudhakar, have been pushing the extremists to open base through their Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee in these areas, whose primary focus, so far, has been in Kerala.

Realising the growing threat of Maoists expanding in the KKT area, the Home Ministry had specifically issued an alert in December last year.

It said, "It is imperative at this juncture that all efforts be focused to check the activities of the outfit in the initial stage. If necessary, a joint police operation of the three States may be conducted to maintain the dominance of the administration and thwart any attempt by CPI (Maoist) to build their hideouts or organisation at this strategic tri-junction.”

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