Three IEDs recovered from Naxal area in J’Khand
Security forces have recovered three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from Naxal-hit areas of West Singhbum district of Jharkhand. A joint squad of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and state police carried out the operation in which some Maoist uniforms and literature was also recovered from Sonua area of the district. The forces had recovered and defused about 22 explosives yesterday in the state.
Naxal threat kills poll fervour in Bastar
There is absolutely no sign of any election fever in Annaram, a tiny tribal village, located just 45 km from Bijapur, district headquarters in Chhattisgarh’s south Bastar region. However, a banner hoisted by the Naxalites calling for boycott of elections is the only sign. An eerie silence has descended on the village since the brutal killing of Karsharam Shankar on October 2. The Naxals called him a police spy. Tribal residents of around a dozen villages in the area are yet to meet any political worker.
“We have not moved beyond block and district headquarters, leave about campaigning in villages. Nearly 70 per cent of the Bijapur constituency will remain uncovered by our campaign. Our cadres fear that they will either be abducted or killed if they try to push further into interior areas”, local BJP leader Navin Vishwakarma told this newspaper. Over 300 activists belonging to the BJP and the Congress units of Bijapur, who had joined Salwa Judum (anti-Naxal movement) in 2005, have been eliminated by the Naxals. “The only frequent visitors to the villages in remote areas are Naxals, who descend on villages in groups to warn the locals of serious consequences if they defied the poll boycott call,” a local police officer said, requesting anonymity. All the 222 polling booths in Bijapur Assembly constituency have been declared “hyper-sensitive.”
Some 436 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed in Bastar, which comprises of seven districts and of these 115 companies are stationed in Bijapur. The 11 Assembly constituencies in Bastar, which are going to polls on November 11, face similar problems. The poll scenario continues to remain grim in Bastar despite deployment of a record 1,00,000 central paramilitary forces personnel in the whole region to ensure peaceful elections, and 24-7 vigil over 40,000 sq km area of the belt by drones. Bastar was a Congress bastion till 1998, but switched to the BJP in 2003 and 2008 Assembly polls.
The Congress hopes to regain its lost ground in Bastar to some extent by wresting at least five seats from the BJP. Even the CPI wants to open its account in the Assembly from Bastar during this election. Devti, widow of Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma, is contesting from the Dantewada Assembly constituency in south Bastar. Karma was brutally killed in the May 25 Naxal attack on a Congress convoy at Darbha in Bastar district. His widow and four sons has been provided ‘Z’-plus security after Naxals threatened to eliminate the rest of the family. “We are really worried for Karma family. No state-level leader has dared to join their campaign. A palpable fear is also evident among the few workers she was carrying along with her in her campaign”, Dantewada district Congress president Avdesh Gautam, whose house was also attacked by the Naxals three years ago in the area, told this newspaper. Devti, who wants to carry forward her husband’s legacy by winning the seat, is confining her campaign to urban areas only. “We have not been able to cover more than 50 per cent areas in the constituency so far. I do not foresee any chance of ever visiting the areas for campaigning in this poll”, Mr Gautam said.
Tree trunks draped in red banners calling for boycott of polls are a common sight in Bastar villages of Gajnar, Masnar, Mulsnar, Khetepal, Dungir and Dusipal. “The situation has worsened after May 25 massacre of Congress leaders at Darbha by Naxals. Our cadres are not willing to risk their life by visiting interior areas”, BJP leader Vishakarma said. Maoists have circulated leaflets in interior villages issuing diktats to the local adivasis to leave their villages two days before the polling day and warning them against exercising franchise. The situation in Narayanpur district is interesting. Here, the “haats (tribal weekly markets)” have turned much-sought-after venues for poll meeting by the political parties. Tribals from nearby villages pour into the weekly markets to purchase groceries. This has given candidates a chance to reach out to tribal voters without visiting their villages. “Despite heavy deployment of forces, there was an attempt to target candidates by planting landmine in a weekly market in Orcha last week. But forces foiled their plan by detecting the landmine in time,” a local police officer said.
Tribals in Abujhmad area, declared as a liberated zone by Maoists, falling under Narayanpur district, have never heard of polling. In Sukma district, considered epicentre of left-wing insurgency in Bastar, the local area committees have of late become active meeting villagers in their respective area of jurisdiction asking them to stay away from liquor parties thrown by candidates and drive them out of their villages, a senior district police officer said. “In most parts of Assembly constituencies in Bastar campaigning ends after sunset every day due to fear of Naxal attack”, state BJP spokesman Yashwant Jain, who is currently camping in Bastar to oversee party’s electioneering, said.
Situation in other insurgency-hit Assembly constituencies in Bastar division like Kondagaon, Keshkal, Chitrokote, Bastar, Antagarh, north Kanker and Bhanupratappur, where election activities are confined only to urban areas. The situation is bad, admit BJP and Congress campaign managers as around 50 per cent of Bastar has not been covered by political parties so far although the elections are less than a week away. In the worst Naxal-affected districts of Narayanpur, Bijapur and Sukma, political workers have not even visited 30 per cent of their territories. Whatever be the outcome of polls, unprecedented security arrangements in Bastar may make it the costliest elections in a particular territory in electoral history of India.
Naxals planning to attack “soft targets” in cities
With heavy security deployment in hyper-sensitive areas of Bastar region ahead of polls, Naxalites are apparently trying to change their course of action and mobilising cadres to town areas to attack “soft targets” outside their core hold, intelligence sources said. The Maoists are deploying small action teams in city areas of Bastar region to carry out operations, because of security scenario inside forest pockets, according to Intelligence Bureau sources.
The cadres have also been told to maintain security of their senior leaders commanding them during operations. They are reportedly setting up cadres in cities of Bastar region for disrupting the polling process, a senior police official said on condition of anonymity. Intelligence inputs indicate that these groups are working with an objective of creating an atmosphere of fear, besides planning to abduct candidates of political parties and indulging in arson.
Inputs also suggest that the Reds have been threatening government employees, especially school teachers, not to take up poll duties. However, no government employee has so far complained of getting threats, the official said. Following the inputs, security personnel have been alerted to keep a hawk eye on the movement of people from remote areas to cities for taking part in political rallies in Bastar, the official said.
Maoist presence confirmed in more areas
Malappuram: The presence of Maoists has been established in more places in Kerala. Latest reports point to the presence of rebels in the Edakkara Punchakolli forest areas. Tribals have reported that they have seen about 20 armed people. On the tip off, Kerala and Tamil Nadu police personnel combed the area. The tribals saw the group when they ventured into the forests to collect fruits. They also said that the armed group talked to them for more than 30 minutes and later threatened them.
However, combing operations by special forces from Tamil Nadu and Kerala could not find anyone as mentioned by the tribals. However, the police are of the opinion that Maoists could be present in the region and security has been beefed up. There are also plans to enhance combing operations in the coming days.