Kerala

Panic grips tribal villages in Silent Valley

Renovation work fat progressing at the Forest Office in Mukkali near Attappady in Palakkad which come under aligned Maoist attack last week. Photo: K.K. Mustafah

Renovation work fat progressing at the Forest Office in Mukkali near Attappady in Palakkad which come under aligned Maoist attack last week. Photo: K.K. Mustafah  

Probe agencies yet to make headway into last week incident

Panic has gripped villagers at Mukkali and the surrounding forest villages that form the gateway to the Silent Valley National Park. Investigating agencies are yet to make any headway into the attack by suspected Maoist supporters in which the Mukkali forest range office was vandalised and a Forest Department vehicle set ablaze last week.

Rumours are doing the rounds about spotting strangers in the core areas of the park and in the forest settlements of the Muduga and Irula tribespeople. The police investigation has so far centred on two youths, who were arrested in connection with the attack on two multinational fast food outlets in Palakkad town the same night.

Television channels on Thursday reported Maoist role in an incident in which a camp shed of the forest protective staff at Havelock, deep inside the core area of the park, caught fire. However, the police and forest officials are yet to establish it. There was no permanent posting at the camp and none was present when the fire ravaged it.

“Tribals better off here”

“We fail to find the logic behind the targeting of the Silent Valley by suspected Maoists. Unlike many other forest areas, tribal people here have better living standards and are not exploited. There is no poverty or malnutrition here,” says A.K. Vinod, a taxi driver at Mukkali, who believes that the attackers may have targeted the forest station to gain media attention. “The tribal people in the region have no major complaints against forest officials and they live in harmony.”

“Ecotourism is the mainstay of the people here. More than 100 families are indirectly dependent on the park since they work as guides and operators of approved vehicle services. But the number of visitors has dwindled considerably in the post-attack scenario,” said B Sunil, a forest guide.

Officials said anti-terrorist squads had been deployed in the park for combing operations targeting Maoists.

But the local community believes that no major investigation drive has been initiated so far.

Many people who spoke to The Hindu expressed doubts about the “Maoist theory,” saying that the government appeared to be hiding something about the whole operation.

Tribal residents of the Anavay and Karuvara hamlets seemed to be in a state of panic as television channels continued to broadcast reports linking them with Maoists.

They remained tight-lipped about alleged visits by the suspected Maoists to their colonies.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 5:52:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/panic-grips-tribal-villages-in-silent-valley/article6752208.ece

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