Friday, April 17, 2009

Securitymen pay price for Naxal belt poll schedule

Post CommentLarger | SmallerAmitabh Sinha
Posted: Saturday , Apr 18, 2009 at 0114 hrs IST

New Delhi:

With the killing of 29 securitymen and seven civilians by Naxalites during Phase I and the day preceding the vote making it one of the bloodiest starts to an election in recent times, questions are being asked over the Election Commission wisdom of scheduling polls in almost all Naxal-affected areas in the first round.

Sources have told The Indian Express that while deciding on the poll schedule, there was considerable debate on whether it would be possible to hold peaceful elections in the entire Naxal belt simultaneously, especially since North-Eastern states and parts of Jammu and Kashmir were also being clubbed in the same phase.

It was pointed out that from the security point of view, it was a nightmare situation, especially after intelligence agencies had repeatedly warned that Naxalite groups were planning to strike in a big way to disrupt the election process.

The Election Commission, however, was said to be in favour of conducting elections in these areas in one go considering the fact that they are geographically contiguous. But this decision resulted in the number of Central security forces in these areas being considerably lower than what was necessary to keep Naxalites out.

Chhattisgarh is a classic example. During last year’s Assembly polls in the state which was held in two phases, 300 companies of para-military forces were deployed, apart from the 80 that is permanently stationed there to fight Naxalites. But this time, instead of 300, only 85 companies could be made available for the entire state which went to polls in single phase.

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