The CPI-ML-Naxalbari and CPI-Maoist merger can have significant impact for the Maoist movement in the tri-junction area of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. CPI-Maoist has been making continuous efforts towards creating a base in the area, and while they have not perpetrated any large scale violence in the area, they have been visible with an increasing frequency and there is significant evidence of their non-violent mobilisation. Violence and intimidation, however, have not been altogether lacking.
Mrinal Kanta Das
Moving a step further towards consolidation of Left Wing Extremist (LWE) groups in India, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist – Naxalbari (CPI-ML-Naxalbari) jointly announced their merger on May 1, 2014. The new party retained the name Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). The joint statement announcing the merger was made by Mupalla Laxman Rao alias Ganapathy, general secretary CPI-Maoist and Ajith, secretary, CPI-ML-Naxalbari, and was issued to the media by Abhay and Krantipriya, the spokespersons of the respective outfits. CPI-ML- Naxalbari has limited pockets of influence in Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The merger of CPI-ML-Naxalbari and CPI-Maoist has been on the cards for several years, as ideological differences between the two groups have faded away. Further, according to an internal document of the People’s War Group (PWG), one of the constituent formations of CPI-Maoist, at the second meeting of the PWG CC held in November-December 2002, the CC noted that cadres from the CPI-ML-Naxalbari had quit and joined the ranks of PW in ‘sizeable numbers.’
The merger would now give CPI-Maoist further access to CPI-ML-Naxalbari underground/ over ground networks. In Kerala, the CPI-ML-Naxalbari is believed to be working through its front organizations, such as Ayyankali Pada and Porattam. Ayyankali Pada had taken the Palakkad collector, W.R. Reddy, hostage at the collectorate in 1996. Porattam had led the attacks on the World Bank Project Office at Kothamangalam in 2000; on the Coca Cola outlet in Kochi in 2003; and on the Citi Bank branch at Kochi in 2004. CPI-ML-Naxalbari cadres had attacked the NABARD offices in Kannur and Kalpetta in 2008.
The Viplava Sthreevadi Prasnthanam, Viplava Vidyarthi Prasthanam and Njattuvela Samskarika Samithi are the other formations believed to be associated with CPI-ML-Naxalbari. Given the prevailing situation, the CPI-ML-Naxalbari and CPI-Maoist merger can have significant impact for the Maoist movement in the tri-junction area of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. CPI-Maoist has been making continuous efforts towards creating a base in the area, and while they have not perpetrated any large scale violence in the area, they have been visible with an increasing frequency and there is significant evidence of their non-violent mobilisation.
Violence and intimidation, however, have not been altogether lacking. Confirming the Maoist presence in the tri-junction area, an internal communication of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) noted, in November 2013, that the presence and movement of Maoist groups had been noticed on over two dozen occasions in the Districts of Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur in Kerala and Mysore, Kodagu, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Shimoga in Karnataka.
Though adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu had not recorded any movement of armed Naxal cadres, activities of front organisations had increased distinctively in Erode District, the UMHA observed, adding, in a six-page letter sent to 13 States, “The party (CPI-Maoist) is trying to develop the tri-junction of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as a suitable operational base.”
In another communication, UMHA sounded a warning that armed CPI-Maoist cadres had earlier visited various Adivasi (tribal) colonies of Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad at least 50 times. In the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the Maoists function under the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC). According to an article written by an underground Kerala Maoist leader Rupesh in ‘Mathrubhumi’ weekly in 2013, the WGSZC was formed to target Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in view of the ‘exploitation faced by scores of tribals, Scheduled Caste people, landless poor farmers’ in these areas, as against the booming economic prospects of nearby cities such as Erode, Coimbatore, Palakkad, Kochi, Kozhikode and Mangalore.
The Maoist move is said to be part of an ambitious plan to extend the purported Red Corridor from Jharkhand to Wayanad. Increasing Maoist activities have recently been noticed in Kerala, where the rebels’ presence has been identified in regions that come under 31 Police Stations limits in the Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Thrissur Districts. The Kerala Police recently issued lookout notices for 11 Maoists.
Though the Maoists claim that stepping into Kerala was part of their agenda to establish their grip on the Western Ghats area, the Police claim that it was the no-holds-barred effort of the Karnataka Anti-Naxal Force that made the armed group ‘retreat’ into Kerala. The Kerala Police believe that 11 Maoist cadres, including four women, active in the Maoist gang are operating in the State, with a considerable number of members currently in sleeping module as well. Of the 11, six named Vikram Gowda, Latha, Kanya alias Kanyakumari, Sundari alias Geetha, Mahesh alias Jayanna and A.S. Suresh are from the Malnad region of Karnataka. The six are believed to have been involved in many criminal cases, including murder, and Vikram Gowda has led the movement in Malnad in Karnataka. Sensing the urgency of the situation, the Kerala State Government, on February 21, 2014, directed the Police Department to fortify 16 Police Stations in north Kerala on ‘a war footing.’
The Government ordered 300 armed Policemen to the region to provide ‘perimeter defence and support’ to Thunderbolts Kerala, the special weapons and tactics team of the State Police, which was spearheading ‘anti-Naxal operations’ there. The Thunderbolt Commandos however, feel that a clear political mandate for operations is yet to be given. Putta Vimaladitya, Wayanad SP, who is also leading the anti-terror operations in the State, argued, “We have not yet received a shoot-at-sight order from the Government. Anti-Maoist operation in the State is being carried out at present without such an order.”
Effective operations, the Forces feel, are not possible in the absence of such an executive cover. Maoist efforts to secure a foothold in the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu may also be fed by the increasing and consistent pressure exerted by Security Forces (SFs) in other theatres in areas of traditional Maoist dominance. Nevertheless, past efforts to establish themselves in the Southern States have met with little success, though this has not deterred them from trying. The significance of the recent merger of the CPI-ML-Naxalbari and CPI-Maoist, coming after nearly ten years of the formation of the latter, must not be underestimated.
It constitutes a step forward in the consolidation of left-wing extremist (LWE) groups, in a process in which the formation of CPI-Maoist was itself a major advance that signalled a substantial escalation in LWE operations. The Andhra Pradesh based CPI-ML People’s War (PW) and the Bihar based Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) had, on September 21, 2004, merged to form CPI-Maoist. The Revolutionary Communist Centre of India – Maoist, operating in Punjab, had earlier united with the then Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) to form the MCCI in 2003. The Bihar-based Party Unity (PU) had also merged in 1998 with the CPI-ML People’s War, which was active in Andhra Pradesh.
The Maoists themselves acknowledge that their movement is currently in a ‘critical condition’. Nevertheless, their efforts at a ‘countrywide revival’ continue, and the recent merger highlights their determination to restore the strength of the movement. As an unnamed senior Police officer from Kerala noted in a media report, it would be stupid to wait for some untoward incidents to swing into action against the Maoists in the tri-junction area. Pre-emptive action in the early stages of Maoist intervention in this region, when the organisation is at its most vulnerable and susceptible to penetration, will prove far more effective than late action to contain an escalating trend in violence.