FOR the third time since 2016, the Thunderbolts – Kerala’s anti-terror commando force – has claimed to have killed “Maoists” in an “encounter”. The “encounters” in November 2016, March 2019, and the latest one in Agali in Palakkad in October 2019 all bear the hallmarks of custodial killings, i.e fake encounters.
It should be noted that the results of magisterial probes ordered in the 2016 and March 2019 cases are yet to be made public. In all three “encounter” cases the Thunderbolts claimed that they fired in self-defence at Maoists who opened fire on them. But the police suffered no injuries in any of these cases.
Such commando forces in states including Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra are notorious for brutal custodial killings, of adivasis branded as Maoists, as well as of Maoists lured with promises of talks. For commando and police forces to enjoy impunity for repeated custodial killings in a state ruled by the CPIM-led LDF coalition is especially shocking and condemnable.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, as the state’s Home Minister, is responsible for the police forces in the state. CPIML demands that the Kerala Government walk the talk when it comes to defending democracy and upholding the constitutional rights of people. FIRs must be filed against concerned police officers responsible for the killings, and they must face a trial and asked to prove their claim that they fired in self-defence.
There is no rationale for a commando force like Thunderbolts in a state like Kerala. We demand that disbanding of Thunderbolts, and a time-bound enquiry into all suspected custodial killings, with punishment for all police officers found guilty.