Friday, April 24, 2009

Poll vehicles set on fire

- Maoists attack CRPF camp, drive away voters
JAYESH THAKER

An IAF chopper on air vigil in Jhati Jharna, Ghatshila. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Chaibasa, April 23: Naxalites burnt four vehicles carrying polling personnel and EVMs to a booth at Jompoi in Sonua block under the Manoharpur assembly segment in the wee hours today.

The rebels also attacked a CRPF camp at Kiriburu last night while scaring away voters at Manoharpur this morning. However, there were no casualties in any of the incidents. All the three places fall under the Singhbhum Lok Sabha constituency that recorded a polling percentage of 58.

Chaibasa superintendent of police Sudhir Kumar Jha said the polling officials were on their way to a booth at Jompoi around 3am when the Maoists intercepted them. “After asking the officials to alight from the four vehicles, the rebels torched them, including two dumpers, together with the EVMs,” Jha added. He, however, claimed that no Naxalite-related incidents took place at Manoharpur and Kiriburu.

But sources said the rebels ransacked booth numbers 190, 191, 192, 194, 195 and 196 in Manoharpur around 12.30pm. They asked the voters to leave the booths and drove away the polling personnel, who took shelter at Manoharpur railway station and Nandpur cluster. Polling could not take place in these booths even though the police pursued the voters to come back.

At Kiriburu, about 100 km from Chaibasa and under the Jagannathpur assembly segment, the Maoists exchanged fire with a CRPF party around 1.30am last night. As a result, several voters stayed away from the booths this morning fearing fresh attacks.

The turnout was impressive in the rural pockets of the constituency though. Voters came in droves to exercise their franchise at Gitilipi, Boljori, Patahatu, Nimdih and several other places.

“The polling percentage was good in the rural areas. Forty-six per cent voters cast their votes in Beljori booth,” said Sudhir Kumar, the sector magistrate II.

Polling at the lone booth in former chief minister and independent candidate Madhu Koda’s village Patahatu was over by 12.30pm.

However, residents boycotted polling in booth numbers 7 and 17 at Chaibasa Sadar in protest against non-construction of a culvert. “We have been demanding the culvert for several years, but the authorities have turned a deaf ear to our pleas. We are fed up with the false promises of the local MP,” said Vinay Mahto, a resident

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