Chhattisgarh: Naxal threat looms over second phase of polls

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As Chhattisgarh prepares for the second phase of polls on 19 November, the police headquarters is gearing up to face the Naxal threat in constituencies that have recently come under attack. The Election Commission and the local police are also trying to ensure safety of the paramilitary force and polling parties returning after the first phase of elections.

Although the police managed to ensure smooth polling in 18 constituencies during the first phase, the Naxals launched an attack at Pankhajur the next day.

From among the 72 seats, the police faces threats from Naxals at Dhamtari, Sihawa, Dondi Lohara, Sanjari-Balod, Rajim, Mahasamund, Bindranwagarh and Raigarh. Areas like Gariyaband’s Chhura, Amamora, Amlipadar, Gohrapadar, Kopra and Khadma have been declared highly sensitive Naxal-affected constituencies for the second phase. The Maoists have continuously asserted their presence in the region during the past few days. The police and paramilitary forces have been issued orders to exercise additional vigilance in Risgaon, Borai and Pharasgaon of Dhamtari district, and Suarmar, Gadphulakshar and Singhora of Mahasamund district.

The authorities fear that the Maoists may carry out a major attack in Raigarh’s Buldega, Bangaon, Tolenga, Milupad and Sonajori areas along the Orissa border as the region has witnessed major Maoist operations during the past five years. The first Naxal attack of the region was in Gariyaband in which Congress leader Nandkumar Patel had a close shave, while four others were killed. In another incident, 12 jawans were killed in a landmine blast at Risgaon. In Bindranwagarh, Naxals barged into BJP leader Damrudhar Pujari’s house and threatened him.

Naxal experts believe that allowing security forces and polling parties inside the ‘danger zone’ is a strategic trap laid by Maoists. The fear is mounting as two days have passed and polling parties from remote constituencies like Antagarh have not yet returned.

According to TEHELKA sources, 20,000 jawans will aid the polling parties. For the second phase of polling, 631 companies have been deployed. The seats going to poll in the second round fall under four ranges of police headquarters – Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur and Surgaja.

Kanker SP Rajendra Das told TEHELKA, “A BSF personnel got injured when he tried to defuse a pressure bomb placed beneath the ground.” In another major attack, the Maoists ambushed a Tavera vehicle at Manjhipura near Kerlapal in Sukma district. Two BSF jawans and the driver were killed in the blast.

Former DGP of Chhattisgarh, Viswaranjan told TEHELKA, “The Maoists are growing stronger with each day and only security forces can tackle them. It is the heavy presence of paramilitary forces which ensured that assembly polls are conducted smoothly.”

According to GP Singh, IG (Raipur Range) and Nodal officer (Security, Electoral Duty), “The jawans have strictly obeyed the Standard Operation Policy which is why there were very few incidents of damage. Not even a single EVM could be looted by the Maoists.” In the 2008 Assembly Elections, Maoists had looted 35 EVMs and 28 people were killed in Naxal attacks.

(Translated from Tehelka Hindi by Naushin Rehman)

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