The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tonsure penalty for poll

Patna, Nov. 18: Away from the heat and dust of the campaign for the coming Assembly polls to five states, another poll saga is unfolding, in Bihar, where Naxalite violence dominates the picture.

Yesterday, a Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) squad is said to have shaved the heads of five Rashtriya Janata Dal workers campaigning for the bypoll to Barachatti Assembly seat in Gaya district.

The squad intercepted the vehicle of the party workers, pinned them down, shaved their heads, beat them up and paraded them at a village in the constituency for about five hours.

The assault was part of the ultra-Left outfit’s new design to punish those who disregard its poll-boycott call by shaving their heads, parading them publicly, and raising pro-MCC and anti-election slogans.

The workers, campaigning for Samata, the wife of former MLA Bhagavatia Devi, were targeted while their leader Laloo Prasad Yadav was addressing a poll meeting in another village of the reserved constituency. He was urging the MCC to shun violence and abandon its poll-boycott.

Two days earlier, two other RJD workers were said to have been thrashed by the MCC at a village within Mohanpur police station limits of Barachatti, which will go to the polls on Thursday along with two other constituencies.

The Gaya district administration claims it is ready for a successful and peaceful conduct of polls, with elaborate security in place in the face of the boycott call.

Paramilitary forces are being deployed to monitor the whole of Barachatti -- where all 246 polling booths have been declared sensitive -- especially in the area bordering Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.

District magistrate and returning officer Brajesh Malhotra’s statement says all election officials have been ordered to ensure peaceful polling; any negligence will be taken seriously.

Reacting to the assaults, the leader of the Opposition, Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP, said he believes the RJD is hand in glove with the MCC and will ultimately use the Naxalite outfit in its favour in the polls.

Some residents of villages in Barachatti, however, say Laloo Prasad carries little appeal in this predominantly Dalit, illiterate and underdeveloped part of Bihar. They even hint the MCC is indirectly supporting an Independent candidate.

The RJD, meanwhile, is contending with another attack, of the political kind, from the Opposition. The NDA recently gave the state chief election officer a memorandum that accused RJD workers of trying to intimidate polling officials to favour the ruling party during the elections.

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