Monday, December 14, 2009

Voters defy Naxal diktat in Saranda forest

Voters in the Saranda forest which spread over 820 square kilometers in Jharkhand has defied Naxal diktat and queued up to vote even after 3:00pm deadline. To save the voters' identity, the polling agents didn't make ink mark on their fingers.

Jharkhand News : Security beefed up for 1st phase of polls in Jamshedpur VOTERS IN Saranda forest region with more than 45 per cent voter turnout in Manoharpur constituency, West Singhbhum, defied Naxal diktat and queued up to vote even after 3:00pm deadline.

It may be out of the blue for a constituency that witnessed the Tata-Bilaspur Express blown on November 19 and 12 Shanti committee members abducted, from Daragoshai village and followed by iron ore mines of SAIL at Kiriburu damaged by drum bombs by Naxalites.

Saranda forest, which spread over 820 square kilometers in Jharkhand (80 per cent) and Orrisa (20 per cent), is the hiding and transit point of extremists in the region. The polling booths after Goilkera town in Manoharpur constituency are considered highly sensitive.

Each polling booth in the Saranda region had six heavily armed personnel from the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP).

“Polling was peaceful in the sector,” said Devnish Hara, sector magistrate, stationed at Balika Madhya Vidhyalaya, Goilkera.

Out of the 373 voters of the booth number 101 in Aurenga, which is 17 kilometers from Goilkera town and three kilometers from Thitir village where 10 CRPF personnel were killed in a mine blast a few months back, had a 50 per cent poll percentage by noon and more waiting to cast their vote. The polling booth had over ten security personnel accompanied by an anti-mine vehicle.

“Though the Naxals had called for a poll boycott but we have not stopped from exercising our right. There has been no threat from Naxalites yet and as you can see there is also a large woman voter turnout,” said Suleman Honhaga, a resident of Thitir adding that for security reason and to save voters’ identity from Naxalites, polling agents didn’t make ink mark on their fingers.

Polling at another highly sensitive area, Serengada, which is after Aurenga and deep in the Sarnda forest, saw peaceful polling under tight security. Out of 820 voters of booth, number 206, in Panchayat Bhawan Kebra, 144 voters had polled by 12.30pm

Somnath Mardi, resident of Buru Kebra, said that he was highly pleased to vote in this election and that though there is always a Naxal threat and the fear that they may question them, his entire village had come to vote.

Block development officer, Goilkera, Arvind Kumar Lal said, “Forty per cent polling was recorded in 62 polling booths of the block. Altogether 44,255 voters including 22,238 male and 22,017 female voters were in the area. Altogether 44 of the 62 polling booths of the block were found as highly sensitive booths,” adding that Manoharpur had an overall 56 per cent voter turnout.

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