Counter insurgency operation begins in Kerala forests

The Kerala government has launched a counter-insurgency operation on a moderate scale in forest areas, especially in the northern parts of the State, in the wake of intelligence reports from the Union Home Ministry about possible activities of extremist organisations in areas close to tribal settlements. Official sources said here on Tuesday that the police and the forest and wildlife department had joined hands to constitute forest-level vigilant committees (Jagritha Samitis) in all police station limits and forest sections in areas vulnerable to threats from the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and fundamentalist outfits at the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu borders. Adivasis, elected representatives, revenue officials, police officers, voluntary agencies and eco-groups would be part of such committees.

Around 300 committees will be formed at the station-level, 100 at the range-level and 14 at the district level. The forest range officer will be the chairperson at the station-level, while the revenue divisional officer and the district collector will be chairpersons of the range-level and district-level committees. At least three of the committee members, including a woman, will be from the Scheduled Tribes. Members from tribal settlements, who are not part of the previously formed forest protection committees (vana samrakshana samiti) and eco development committees, will be given preference. Teachers and Kudumbasree volunteers will be made part of the programme, officials said.

The committees are expected to gather information about unlawful activities in tribal settlements in the forests. Details of the volunteers attached to non-governmental organisations entering the Adivasi hamlets would be collected and passed on to law enforcing agencies. The operation has also been aimed at empowerment of the tribal communities by providing them better healthcare and educational facilities. Intelligence sources said Maoists from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu could have infiltrated the border areas of Kerala and Karnataka looking for a hideout ever since the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched “Operation Green Hunt.” Most of these fugitives slowly moved to the jungles in the Western Ghats. The tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had already developed into a “perspective area” for the Maoists for building their organisational base.

They planned to set up a “Dalam” (guerilla squad) in Mananthavady after infiltrating the tribal populace. It is believed some Islamist outfits, such as the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India, had forged a secret pact with the Maoists, the sources said. Home Ministry sources said the Maoists had lost 150 members, including senior leaders, cadres and guerilla fighters, in 2011. Nine of them were Politburo members and 18 were from the Central Committee. Many of the guerilla fighters belonged to Dandyakaranya, a forest area located among the borders of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Odisha. At the same time, the seizure of a large consignment of arms and ammunition from Bihar and Jharkhand recently has also put the CRPF in alert mode. The supply of arms could have been routed through extremist groups in the northeast, the sources said.

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