233 polling stations in Chhattisgarh face Naxal threat: EC
NEW DELHI: The Chhattisgarh government has told the Election Commission that as many as 233 polling stations across 18 districts face a high Naxal threat and it may be risky for polling parties to access them in the coming assembly elections. During the EC’s interaction with Chhattisgarh administration in Raipur last week, senior state officials requested the poll panel to consider relocating or rationalizing these polling stations in interior villages across 12 Naxal-infested assembly segments of south Chhattisgarh and also the northern districts of Sarguja and Rajnandgaon.
They sought shifting of these booths to safer locations like the panchayat/gram sabha office or their amalgamation with polling stations set up in populated areas with road connectivity. Not keen to move around polling stations in 18 of the state’s 27 districts, the EC has asked the state government to re-examine the issue. This, the panel told state officials, was also necessary as almost all political parties in the state do not favour a change in polling stations and want at least one polling station in each village.
The commission is now preparing for a separate round of discussions with the Union home ministry to assess the Naxal threat and draw up a detailed security plan for polls in Chhattisgarh. The meeting is necessitated as agencies fear that Maoists, buoyed by the success of their May 25 attack on a Congress convoy in Darbha Ghati, which killed the party’s top state leaders, could target political leaders and rallies in the run-up to the election.
Sources told TOI that the MHA will seek relocation of polling booths from interior villages to closer to the arterial roads. This, ministry officials feel, will help minimize the risk of landmine attacks and ambush against central paramilitary forces and polling parties during travel to these booths. However, an MHA official added that clearance of its proposal would depend on the outlook of the EC, which will be equally concerned about the convenience of voters, and political parties.
Both the EC and the MHA are keen on a staggered election in Chhattisgarh, with a separate phase for the Maoist-infested constituencies. Sources said the EC favours polls across non-affected constituencies of Chhattisgarh, along with Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, in the first phase. Polling in the Naxal-hit constituencies of Chhattisgarh may be held in a subsequent phase to “ensure maximum deployment of central forces,” said an EC official. Large-scale Maoist violence was witnessed, mostly in Bastar region, during the 2008 Chhattisgarh elections. Apart from triggering landmine attacks, disrupting polling and looting EVMs, the Maoists had fired at an IAF chopper ferrying back poll officials and EVMs from a Bastar village, killing a flight engineer.
No question of withdrawing BSF camps from Malkangiri: DGP
Koraput: Odisha Police on Monday rejected the Maoists demand of withdrawing BSF camps from Chitrakonda area, the Naxal hot-bed of Malkangiri district, while the state government stressed on the augmentation of developmental activities in the Southern districts. Director General of Police (DGP) Prakash Mishra said the Maoists blasted a landmine killing four BSF jawans out of frustration as the government did not withdrew the para- military force as per their demand.
The maoists hand are tied due to presence of BSF jawans in the area, the DGP claimed. Odisha’s home secretary V K Saxena and DGP Mishra on Monday reviewed the ongoing anti-Maoist operations in Southern districts of Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur and Rayagada in Koraput six days after the killing of BSF jawans. Focusing on the cut-off area of Malkangiri district where launch service was stalled from August 21 to 30 to the 151 villages in and around Balimela reservoir reportedly for Maoist threat, the DGP said, As three new BSF camps were established in the Chitrakonda area, the Maoists out of frustration halted the launch service expecting that by this we will withdraw forces. However, question of withdrawing forces from Chitrakonda doesn t arise. Describing the Maoist offensive of August 27 as unfortunate, the DGP rejected alleged lapses in intelligence failure and said steps will be taken to ensure such incidents doesn’t occur.
According to the DGP as the Maoist activities has been contained to a good extent in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district, the Naxals were in search of an oppourtinty to hit back and they succeeded in attacking the BSF convoy. The home secretary said development and security goes hand in hand in the Maoist-hit districts and more emphasis is given to rural connectivity and electrification of villages. Earlier on the day, the DGP held meeting with the SP s, collectors of the four districts and top BSF officials regarding Maosit activites in the area.
Govt wants more security in Maoist-hit areas
In a bid to increase security in Maoist-affected areas, the Union Home Ministry wants the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to deploy more personnel to fight against the left-wing extremists but the force is not keen due to crunch in numbers of personnel. Sources in the ITBP said the Union Home Ministry is pressing the paramilitary force, which is mainly deployed in the snow-clad 3,488 km Sino-Indian border, to deploy another batch in the Maoist-infested regions of the country.
At present, three battalions – around 3,000 personnel – of the force are deployed in Chhattisgarh, which is witnessing heightened activities of the ultras. In May, the Maoists had attacked a convoy of Congress leaders killing over 25 people, including senior leaders like V C Shukla. The ITBP sources said the force is not in a position to deploy more personnel. They said it could be done only after raising the new battalions, which have been allotted. The force will be raising nine battalions – around 9,000 personnel – in two years. This fiscal alone, around 5,000 personnel will be inducted into the force while the remaining will be done in the next fiscal.
Maoist posters, banners found in Cheral mandal
Demanding stop to combing operations in the forest and cease foisting false cases against the tribal youths, the CPI Maoists have displayed wall-posters and erected banners at Tegada, Devarapally and R.Kothagudem villages in Cheral mandal in the wee hours of Sunday. According to the information, the Maoists have also warned the police not to brand the innocent tribal youths as police informers. Bhadrachalam Additional SP Nyalakonda Prakash Reddy said that they had got the information of the posters and banners left by the Maoists at some villages and inquiring about the matter. He also said that they had put the police in the agency area on alert.
Illegal gun factory unearthed in Deoghar
RANCHI: Police unearthed an illegal mini-gun factory and recovered 51 guns from the forests of Deoghar, 350km from here late on Saturday. The guns were in the process of being assembled at the factory in Kishanpur locality under Margomunda police station when police raided the spot. Those engaged in assembling the guns fled on seeing the police. No arrests have been made thus far. Police have registered an FIR against seven people and raids are on to nab the criminals. Deoghar SP Prabhat Kumar said, “During my capacity as the SP of Khunti, Simdega and Chatra, I had recovered several guns of similar make and kind from the Maoists.
The miscreants came from Munger and stayed in Kishanpur forests. The geographical location was ideal for the manufacture of guns. No one has been arrested in this connection. We will soon nab the criminals,” said the SP. Though Deoghar is not a Maoist den, the outlawed rebels seem to be spreading their tentacles here as well. It is suspected that the guns were meant to be supplied to the Naxalites. Varun Kumar, the Madhupur SDPO, said, “The accused hail from Munger district of Bihar.”
Police did not divulge details of the accused as it could hamper the investigation process. The gun factory is situated on the borders of Deoghar, between Giridih and Jamtara. The neighbouring district of Giridih has been home to Maoists for the past several years. Giridih shares its border with Bihar. The areas connecting Bihar and Giridih are hilly and covered with dense forests. Almost 80% of the police stations situated in these areas are Maoist-affected zones.
The rebels use these areas to engage in cross-border sale and purchase of illegal guns. A total of 51 half-manufactured guns, one manufactured pistol, eight magazines, 55 barrels, four live bullets, and several materials used to manufacture the guns were recovered from the factory.
CPI (M) slams centre for double-talk on mining
Ahead of AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Odisha during which he is scheduled to meet the Dongoria Kondhs, the CPI (Maoist) has slammed Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh for his double-talk on mining in tribal districts of the State. Spokesperson for the Odisha State Committee of CPI (Maoist) Ajay, in a statement, said the Centre has been trying to hijack the struggle of the indigenous community against mining in Niyamgiri by painting a pro-tribal picture.
It is only an attempt to change its image, he added. The outlawed outfit singled out Ramesh who has been vocal about the successful conduct of palli sabhas in 12 villages and said the Union Minister is trying to take credit for opposing mining at Niyamgiri. If that is the case, why is Congress not opposed to mining in other tribal areas of the State, the spokesperson on behalf of Chhattisgarh Odisha Border Zonal Committee and Andhra-Odisha Border Committee said. Tribals have been displaced by mining in Deomali, irrigation projects in Suk Tel and Polavaram but the party is silent these cases, he added.
The Maoist party also slammed the Congress for not opposing heavy deployment of security forces in villages which the members of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti belong to. During the conduct of palli sabhas too, there was heavy security arrangement in the villages to create an environment of fear among the tribals and influence their voice but the national party did not make any mention of it, Ajay said. The CPI (Maoist) said all the major political parties including Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party have no compassion for the tribals. The Niyamgiri struggle, it said, will continue and spread to other tribal pockets where the governments – both at Centre and State – are pushing mining at the expense of tribals and their livelihood.
Explosives seized in Jharkhand
Giridih (Jharkhand), Aug 29 (PTI) Gelatine sticks and detonators were today seized during search operation by the police in Maoist-affected Giridih district. The police team intercepted two bikes and seized 125 detonators and 150 pieces of gelatine sticks, the police sources said here. The two bike-borne men were arrested, the police said, adding they were being questioned on their alleged possession of explosives, reason and its destination.