Friday, April 17, 2009

Naxal threat takes heavy toll on polling in red zone

.A K Mishra

First Published : 17 Apr 2009 04:10:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 17 Apr 2009 08:48:54 AM ISTJEYPORE: Against the backdrop of Naxal mayhem in Damanjodi and prevailing fear psychosis among voters, the voting was over in the Naxal zone of Koraput, Rayagada and Malkangiri districts today.

But the Naxal threat and fear took a heavy toll on polling as the areas witnessed one of lowest-ever voter turnout in the election history.

Police were on their toes to thwart Naxal attack as the rebels blocked several roads by felling trees and set several polling booths on fire. As many as ten booths in Balimela and Kudulugumma blocks in Malkangiri district had no polling on the day due tor Naxal threats. Naxals also torched polling stations and material in Malmarionda, Kalimela, Tonkarkota, Badigota, MV 73, MV 75, Andrahall and even burnt a jeep of a polling team near Andrahall. Polling was also not recorded in five villages under Kummanur panchayats in Malkangiri as the locals boycotted the polls demanding tribal status. Despite heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces, the Naxals found blocking roads in Kalimela and Chitrokonda areas. Only 20 percent polling was recorded in Naxal-infested Malkangiri, Kalimela, Khoiraput, Kudumullugmma and Padia in the region.

Similarly, Koraput district, which is bearing the brunt of Naxal violence, also recorded no polling in many areas.

Five villages under Narayanpatna, two in Bandhguam and five in Boipariguda blocks in the district recorded no polling as locals boycotted the elections following threat by Naxal. For the first time in the election history Naxals blocked the roads linked to Jeypore by chopping trees near Boipariguda, Lamataput, Naryanpatna and Bandhugam to prevent polling parties from reaching interior areas. After reports of explosives being planted in the areas were received by the administration, the roads were cleared for passage. Naxalinfested Koraput, Narayanpatana, Bandhugam, Laxmipur and Boipariguda recorded 40 percent polling due Naxal threats.

Rayagada, where also Naxal threat loomed large, witnessed low turnout in Naxalite pockets. Only 35 percent polling was recorded in Maoist-infested Gunupur, Bissamcuttack, Rayagada, Chandrapur and Muniguda blocks. As many as 12 polling booths - three in Gunupur, four in Chandraput, three in Bissamcuttack and two in Muniguda - recorded no polling due to boycott call by Naxals. Over 4000 armed police were deployed in three Naxal-infested districts of Koraput, Rayagada and Malkangiri and hide and seek game between police and Maoists was witnessed in many places. However, no large-scale attack by Naxals was recorded from anywhere as the police took enough precautionary measures and pressed into service choppers to keep tabs on Naxals

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