Kalpetta, Wayanad: A Maoist attack on police convoys in the forests of Chhattisgarh's Bastar district would not have surprised many in India as the area is notorious for such incidents in the past. But Maoists targetting a posh resort on a highway near thickly-populated Kalpetta town in Kerala's Wayanad district came as a huge shock for the police and people in the state.
The Wednesday night attack at Upavan resort in Lakkidi, which is situated on a highway and very close to Wayanad district headquarters Kalpetta, has forced Kannur range IG Balram Kumar Upadhyaya to call an urgent meeting of district police chiefs from Kozhikode rural, Palakkad and Malappuram. In these districts Maoist presence was reported recently.
Even tough the resort is on national highway No. 219, its back side is Sugandhagiri forest area, where Maoists have strong presence. Sources said that after the firing at the resort, a few Maoists from the group escaped to the forest.
A similar attack was reported on December 7, 2014, at Chappa Colony in Wayanad, where the Maoists fired at a police team led by then Mananthavady DySP AR Premkumar. Police could not nab any of them. After the Chappa attack, another police officer's house in Mattilayam was attacked and his bike was set on fire. Later, the police confirmed that the attacks were carried out by Maoists.
In Wednesday night's encounter Maoist P P Jaleel was gunned down by the police. The Maoist group had descended on the Upavan resort in the night and demanded cash and food. The hotel staff refused to pay them and the gang took a few guests as hostage. The staff immediately informed police and an encounter ensued. Cops claimed that they were forced to open fire as a defensive measure. Jaleel's body would be taken to Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, for autopsy after completing inquest procedures.
A few employees of the resort and one injured Maoist were in police custody. Police refused to reveal whether more Maoists were taken into custody. The resort and premises are sealed and entry is restricted for public.
Meanwhile Jaleel's relatives have alleged a conspiracy behind the encounter. Jaleel's elder brother and human rights activist C P Rasheed alleged that the Thunderbolts targetted and killed his brother.
After another attack in November 2016 at Nilambur, when Maoists Kuppu Devaraj and Ajitha were gunned down, human rights activists had alleged foul play. They protested when the bodies were brought to Kozhikode Medical College for autopsy.
According to police, the Lakkidi attack was a protest against the setting up of a new police outpost in Sugandhagiri.