Friday, April 10, 2009

Naxal threats may keep voters indoors

10 Apr 2009, 0106 hrs IST, Prafulla Marpakwar, TNN

MUMBAI: In view of the stepped-up Naxal violence, people in a section of villages in the sensitive Gadchiroli and Gondia districts may not be able
to exercise their franchise in the April 16 elections to the Lok Sabha.

A month after brutal killing of more than a dozen police officials in Gadchiroli, Naxalites have given a call for a week-long bandh and boycott of the Lok Sabha polls. Since April 1, the Naxalites have not just killed three police officials in Dhanora tehsil but also set on fire 15 trucks, private cars and transformers in the area.

What shocked the law enforcing agencies was the fact that the Naxal activists have dug up several roads, because of which neither the election officials nor the voters will be able to reach the polling booths on April 16. The local administration has already declared 356 booths as most sensitive, out of 800 in Gadchiroli district.

At a high-level meeting at Mantralaya, chief minister Ashok Chavan reviewed the law and order situation in Naxal-dominated districts, along with preparedness of the law enforcing agencies to tackle terror attack, particularly during the poll process.

In Gadchiroli, where additional director general of police (anti-Naxalite operations cell) Pankaj Gupta is camping since Sunday, the situation is tense, but under control. "It's a fact that Naxalites have stepped up violence in the district, but we will thwart their plan to halt the polling process. We have deployed several companies of the State Reserve Police Force and paramilitary forces to tackle the situation,'' Gupta told TOI.

Chavan has written to home minister P Chidambaram for 12 companies of the paramilitary forces exclusively for Gadchiroli and Gondia districts to take on the Naxalites. In addition, Chavan has asked home secretary Chandra Iyengar to draft a comprehensive action plan to tackle Naxal violence and also fix the responsibility for implementation of the proposal. "We have asked for four additional helicopters, which will be stationed at Gachiroli for quick movement of police and election officials,'' a senior IPS official said.

Along with the Naxal-dominated areas, Chavan has asked the home department to keep a special vigil on communally sensitive Thane, Akola and Yavatmal districts to ensure that the entire poll process is completed peacefully. Special measures will be taken to maintain law and order in Mumbai, particularly in the wake of the 26/11 terror attack.

On security measures for Mumbai, Chavan specifically told senior police officials that no stone should be left unturned to thwart any attempt by the terrorists to disrupt the poll process or create tension in the metropolis.

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