Wayanad: Aneesh and his family, from the Chapparam tribal settlement near Periya at Mananthavadi, are yet to shake off the fear of being caught in the middle of a shootout between the Thunderbolt commandos and the Maoists.
Surrounded by forest, the tribal settlement of around 40 farming families of the Kurichia community has been a regular drop-in point for Maoists, who would ask the members of the hamlet to source provisions from the shops, seek help to charge their mobile phones and gather information on commando moves. They would also visit the settlement to enjoy occasional tasty meals.
When Aneesh, who works as a driver, returned home on Tuesday evening, Maoists including Chandru, Latha, Sundari and Unnimaya were at his house. Aneesh’s wife Vineetha, their child, his brother Ajeesh and his sister-in-law Binny and their child live in the house.
While four ultras were inside the house, another member of the gang was on guard outside. Three guns were kept outside and only one was inside the house, Aneesh said.
He said the firing started when the Maoists were about to leave after charging phones and a power bank. “Two were outside the house and two others were about to leave when commandos started firing,” he said.
"Suddenly power went off in the entire area. Maoists used only one gun, which was inside the house, while those who were outside escaped into darkness,” he added.
The Thunderbolt commandos used searchlights for the operation. “All of us including children were screaming aloud when police barged into the house. It was total confusion for the cops as there were many people inside the house. So the cops asked us to sit on the ground to ensure our safety. There were gunshots around. There are bullet marks on the walls of the house. We were clueless as to what exactly happened,” Aneesh said. According to his neighbours, the firing and raids continued for almost half an hour.
Another neighbour, who preferred anonymity, said the group used to visit the houses frequently and also tried to rope in people into their cadre citing the low price of crops and authorities' indifference towards the tribal communities.
Since Maoists had a good rapport with the community, they were welcomed well by the Tribal families. Women cadres also helped Maoists get close to the farming families.
The tribal farming families, who settle on the forest fringes, have been living in abject poverty due to the hostile climate and unfriendly official policies. The spot where the shootout took place is just a few kilometres from Kambamala where Maoists attacked the office of Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) on September 28.