The writing on the wall had became clear on the day itself when the Maoists warned the voters in Bastar prior to the Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh in October 2013, to boycott elections. It was not just a mere threat, but the Maoist cadre ensured it by putting up posters, banners, and exemplary killings prior to the elections.
But ignoring the threats of the Left-wing extremists, the voters in south Bastar – the Maoist stronghold – exercised their voting rights during the first phase of Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh on November 11, 2013, thereby registering a record turnout of 75 per cent.
Probably, the innocent tribal voters took the huge security cover given by the central paramilitary forces and the State police too seriously, thinking that they would protect them from Maoist attacks. They were seriously mistaken. And not only the electorate, the government and security forces too were mistaken.
Ignoring the threats from the Maoists to boycott the polls, the voters in south Bastar – a Maoist stronghold – had come out in large numbers to exercise their vote. It was then that the intelligence agencies had warned the State government of possible attacks by the Maoist cadre as an act of revenge.
The worst happened two days after the first phase of the Lok Sabha election that was held peacefully in Bastar. Blatantly violating the fundamental tenets of Naxalism, the Maoists this time targeted teachers and an ambulance, and killed 14 people in two consecutive attacks. In an attack on April 12 at Bijapur, a landmine blast blew a bus carrying poll officials. It killed seven, including shiksha karmis (local teachers) and jawans, who were on election duty. Within an hour, the Maoists attacked an ambulance carrying CRPF jawans in Darbha, killing five security personnel, a driver and a technician.
As a warning, the Maoists had killed three CRPF commandos in a pre-poll strike in Sukma (Bastar) on April 7. Internal security experts believe that the need of the hour is to improve the capability of State police rather than mindlessly raising the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to combat Maoist violence. But, in many cases, local police have been found to be ill-equipped to deal with the Maoist.
“Local police is the best, both for combating and gathering intelligence, but the State government needs to ensure its standard,” said former Director General, BSF, and member National Security Advisory Board, Prakash Singh.
But, everything said and done, why there is repeated failure to safeguard security personnel and innocent villagers.
“That’s why we need Narendra Modi as PM, because of his zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and insurgency. Or else it’ll be impossible to tackle Naxal-menace in our country,” says Satyanarayan Sahu, a small trader of Jagdalpur.
Only Modi’s leadership at the Centre would be able to bring the desired change and without a strong Centre-State policy initiative and intervention, Naxal menace can’t be solved. Meanwhile, the Maoists, who had threatened to unleash a reign of terror during elections in Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar, have already killed two Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF) jawans in Munger (Bihar). The security forces seized 400 kg of explosives in the form of IEDs on April 10 from Naxal-hit zones.
With General Election 2014 half way through, the governments both at the Centre and in the Maoist-hit states need to ensure that the electorate doesn’t have to pay a heavy price for exercising its franchise.
(The writer is a Delhi-based journalist, who writes on various national issues and specialises in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh)