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Mission mode in rebel hubs

- Anti-Naxalite operations chief sounds poll alert, writes to forces

Ranchi, March 3: Para military forces have been asked to step up anti-Naxalite operations in and around rebel strongholds for the forthcoming general elections, the order coming amidst intelligence findings that Maoists had chalked out a detailed plan to disrupt the polls in the Bihar-Jharkhand region.

In a recent letter, director (anti-Naxalite operations) Daljit Singh Chowdhary instructed central para military forces, including BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP and SSB, to remain on “mission mode” during the entire election process.

Specifically, he has asked the forces to chalk out meaningful plans in advance to review sensitive polling stations and keep a watch on movement of rebels across intra-state borders in coordination with respective state police outfits.

“During a raid on February 2 in Gaibathan forests in Jamui district of Bihar, security forces recovered a document titled ‘Chunao Bahishkar’ purportedly issued by Jharkhand Regional Committee of CPI(Maoist), spelling out a two- pronged strategy to disrupt the elections,” a home department official told The Telegraph, quoting from the director’s letter.

The districts targeted by the Maoists, he revealed, were Banka, Lakhisarai, Munger, Jamui and Bhagalpur of Bihar, besides Dumka, Pakur, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Koderma, Dhanbad, Bokaro, parts of Chatra and Ranchi, Sahebganj, Deoghar, Jamtara, Godda, East and West Singhbhum of Jharkhand.

The rebels, he added, were also targeting politicians, poll candidates, particularly of the Congress, BJP and the JVM.

DGP Rajeev Kumar would not elaborate on the police strategy, but admitted that the rebels were likely to get active in the run-up to the polls. “We are aware of the threat perception. Enough security arrangements will be made to ensure peaceful elections,” he said.

A senior intelligence official involved with anti-Naxalite operations in Jharkhand conceded the warning wasn’t unfounded as several state politicians had fallen victim to Maoists terror in the past (see chart).

“Even if operations have curbed Maoist activities to a certain extent, there is no guarantee when they will strike. Going by experience of political killings and violence during elections in Jharkhand, the risk factor is high. Many leaders are on the rebel hit-list,” he said.

Among those facing threats are chief minister Hemant Soren, former chief ministers Babulal Marandi of JVM and Arjun Munda on BJP and state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat.

Political parties in Jharkhand have demanded full-proof security during campaigning in rebel hubs for the forthcoming elections. Congress leader Bhagat underscored its importance.

“We can’t sit at home during elections. It will be a defeat of democracy and the government if Maoists are successful in their plan to persuade voters for a poll boycott. The government must prepare in advance. Candidates, their convoys and people at large must be given security,” he said.

The BJP also listed security as its top demand from the government.

“We have faith in people and democracy. But, people of anti-democratic mindsets may try to disrupt the polls. We seek more security during and before elections. This is the responsibility of the state government,” said state BJP president Ravindra Rai.