Police on toes as Maoist hotbeds go to polls

| | Ranchi
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Police on toes as Maoist hotbeds go to polls

Thursday, 09 May 2019 | Saurav Roy | Ranchi

The first two phases of elections in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) hit Jharkhand have passed peacefully barring one minor incident of violence reported in Ranchi’s Tamar. The security forces, however, are on their toes as the constituencies with the strongest presence of insurgents and a history of Maoist attacks are set to go to polls on May 6.

In a bid to avert any untoward incident and foil the plans of rebel outfits, police have identified pockets in Singbhum, Giridih, Dhanbad and Jamshedpur, the four constituencies that will vote in the third phase of the 17th General Elections in Jharkhand.

Pirtand and Dumri in Giridih district, Jhumra in Bokaro, Tundi and Palma in Dhanbad, and Ghatshila and Patamda in Jamshedpur have been marked as red zones by the security forces, a senior official of Jharkhand Police said on Wednesday. These blocks, he said, will be under surveillance 24x7 to detect and intercept any plan made by the rebel outfits here.

“As a drill, we try and locate the places which have reported Maoist presence. The security forces cover up most of the areas that are identified as sensitive,” said Additional Director General of Police, ML Meena, who also happens to be the Spokesperson of Jharkhand Police.

He added that the security forces will use helicopters during the third phase of elections in Jharkhand to keep a check on the polling from bird’s eye view. Battalions of Jaguar and CoBRA will be deployed across the sensitive zones to combat any attack by LWE groups, he added.

“Jaguar and CoBRA personnel are trained in dealing with LWE groups, so they will be present in sufficient numbers at and around the sensitive zones,” Meena said.

The CPI (Maoist) has had a history of bad blood with security forces in Jharkhand. During elections, they primarily target battalions of security forces deployed on poll duty, sources said.

According to figures with state police, at least eight casualties were reported in the police camp during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand, most of them caused by insurgents.

Sniffer dogs and bomb squads will be moving along with the battalions on poll duty in the sensitive areas to detect and defuse Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), which are most commonly used by the rebel outfits to blow up vehicles, said a senior official of Jharkhand police involved in monitoring the security measures for the third phase of elections here.

According to figures with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), at least 18 of 24 districts in Jharkhand are LWE-affected. Among these districts, active presence of left wing insurgents have been spotted in parts of Chaibasa, Dhanbad, East Singbhum and Bokaro districts – all going to polls on May 6.

While the government has on a number of occasions claimed that the CPI (Maoist) is on the back foot in Jharkhand, the insurgents still call the shots in many pockets of Jharkhand hinterland, a police official involved in combing operations said.

“The Maoist’s area may have shrunk, but they are still active in many pockets. If Naxals were not a problem, then why do we have so many central forces deployed in Jharkhand during elections?” he added.

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