CHENNAI: Attempts by Maoists to make inroads into Tamil Nadu are becoming apparent. A police team combing a forest area gunned down a ‘hardcore’ Maoist on Saturday near Kodaikanal in southern Tamil Nadu after an exchange of fire. It was the first armed encounter with the extremist group in six years, police said.
The team, drawn from the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force and the ‘Q’ Branch, gunned down Naveen alias Prashant (25) near Vadakonji, a tribal village in an "exchange of fire".
Police said Naveen’s killing would be a setback to the Maoists’ efforts to widen their base in the moutainous Teni district in south Tamil Nadu. In November 2002, the police were involved in a major anti-Maoist operation, when they swooped down on a group of 35 extremists at Uthangarai in Dharmapuri district.
One of them was killed then, and 28 others arrested. Naveen was one of those who escaped from Uthangarai during that operation, police said.
"We got information that at least five hardcore Maoists were camping in this tribal village. We started this combing operation two days ago, and we found a group of six in the forest. We shot one while the others fled. We are now on their trail," a senior police officer told The Times Of India.
Police sources said DGP K P Jain had instructed the team to record every incident on video camera to preclude controversies. The team went into the forests with a video camera and a GPS .
They said Naveen was involved in three earlier cases involving Naxals. The police are now hot on the trail of those who escaped. "They are carrying weapons, but we hope to nab them soon."
Since last year, Maoist activity has been witnessed in the southern districts of the state, especially in Theni. Intense pressure on them due to anti-naxal operations being carried out in Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh may have forced the Maoists to regroup in isolated villages in Tamil Nadu.
Their practice was to hide in remote villages and seek to raise support for their cause by distributing radical literature and pamphlets.
A group of Maoists was arrested last year in a hillock near Murugamalai in Theni district. Later, the state police nabbed V. Sundaramoorthy, said to be the Maoist kingpin in the state.
The state police had sent a team there on a tip-off from a suspect who was detained earlier from Palamalai. Six suspected Maoists were nabbed, but not before a firefight. The others however managed to flee the scene. A gun was seized.