Chhattisgarh gets major security blanket for elections
Fearing Maoist attacks, more than 56,000 para-military personnel and police forces from 10 states have been deployed in Chhattisgarh to ensure peaceful polling from Monday.
According to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 564 companies of security forces comprising 56,400 men have moved into Chhattisgarh, the only state among five where polling will be spread over two days. Of the 564 companies, 132 are from the CRPF, 116 from the Border Security Force (BSF), 95 from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and 30 from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
The remaining companies are from Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Railway Protection Force (RPF).
Separately, 93 companies of armed police have been sent to Chhattisgah from 10 states: Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
"All the companies will remain in mission mode during the entire electoral process," a CRPF official told IANS. "The deployment was done till Oct 31 after a home ministry order."
Chhattisgarh, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will see balloting on Nov 11 and 19. The state is known to be a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist.
The security focus on Chhattisgarh follows the horrific May 25 massacre of Chhattisgarh Congress leaders in a remote part of Sukma district that left almost 30 people dead.
The victims included state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, former state minister Mahendra Karma and a senior party leader, Vidya Charan Shukla, a veteran who succumbed to injuries days later.
According to officials who spoke to IANS, the home ministry has asked security forces to step up their anti-Maosit drive in Chhattisgarh till the end of the election process.
In the first phase Nov 11, voting will take place in 18 constituencies in Bastar, Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur, Kondagaon, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon districts. These are said to be part of the so-called 'Maoist Corridor'.
On Nov 19, polling will take place in 72 constituencies in 16 districts, completing the election process for the 90-seat assembly.
According to CRPF sources, Mupalla Laxman Rao alias Ganapathy, who heads the CPI-Maoist, addressed a secret meeting in Chhattisgarh Oct 8.
He is said to have told around 300 Maoists in a forested hideout to carry out attacks ahead of elections.
One official said there could be "a massive military strike" by Maoists to disrupt the polls.
Intelligence inputs reveal that the Maoists are mobilizing their cadres, assembling and planting improvised explosive devices along polling routes and booths, and forming small teams to target polling parties as well as security forces.
"Large groups of armed Maoists along with senior leaders have been noticed since Oct 1 in Narayanpur, Bijapur and Kanker districts," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Maoists have also reportedly directed government teachers not to take part in election duty.
In Dantewada district, the outfit has asked some villagers to leave their homes Sunday and ensure no one remained barring children and the elderly on polling day.
"In Sukma, some villagers were asked to keep themselves away from polling booths, polling parties as well as four-wheelers from Sunday," he said.
Security forces have launched 90 operations since Oct 25 and seized 260 kg of explosives in Chhattisgarh besides arresting 46 Maoists.