Reds snatch ballot papers in Kalahandi

BALANGIR: Around 20 suspected Maoists snatched away ballot papers and polling boxes from officials at two booths in the Maoist-hit Trilochanpur village in Kalahandi district on Tuesday night. The rebels also took away mobile phones from the polling personnel.

Sources said, after polling personnel reached the booths, the ultras, who sneaked into the village from Rayagada district, suddenly entered the booths and held them at gun point. Before they could do anything, they decamped with polling boxes, ballot papers and other documents. Police personnel were not present at the time of the raid. However, the polling personnel returned safely with police escorts.

Kalahandi SP Sudha Singh admitted that there was a Maoist warning on February 10, for not conducting polls in the area. “We were prepared for Maoist violence. We had made sufficient security arrangements. Since Trilochanpur is adjacent to the Rayagada district border, they intruded at night and conducted the raid.”

Apprehensive of Red violence, voters did not turn up at seven other polling booths. “Polling personnel were asked to wait till the end of polling time. Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel were also asked to remain alert,” the SP added.

In Nuapada district, the 18 polling parties who had returned on Tuesday following a road blockade at Banasiama Ghati near Sunabeda sanctuary, headed for the polling booths rather late in the day. They reportedly reached there three hours after the scheduled time for staring polls. Reports said polling went on smoothly there.

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