The Telegraph
Sunday , April 13 , 2014
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Dilemma on poll troops

New Delhi, April 12: The Centre is facing a challenge in taking troops out of Chhattisgarh and redeploying them for election duty elsewhere after the twin blasts today.

Thousands of central forces have to move out of the Bastar region in Chhattisgarh in the next two days.

Voting for the Bastar seat took place on Thursday while three more seats in Chhattisgarh — Rajnandgaon, Kanker and Mahasamund — vote on April 17.

“If we move the forces out, there is risk of more IED blasts. If we do not, elections elsewhere suffer. But then, there is no choice and we have to move — it is democracy,” said a senior official in New Delhi without specifying how many troops will be retained in Bastar.

Over 15,000 central troops are deployed in Chhattisgarh now, most of them in Bastar.

With thousands of improvised explosive devices laid out across the region and the Maoists showing signs of belligerence, the movement of troops over the weekend is proving to be a logistical nightmare, sources said.

Moving targets are at high risk of explosive devices. Most casualties of security personnel are on account of explosions of such devices.

Sources said the CRPF headquarters is in touch with the Election Commission on the developing situation. Any decision by the Centre regarding the forces has to be vetted by the commission.

But officials conceded that there was hardly any scope for the home ministry to request retention of the forces in Bastar as polling in other parts of the country requires them.

The forces are also reassessing the standard operating procedures. “Otherwise, we are going to be sitting ducks,” said a police officer.

Earlier this week, three security personnel were killed and three injured in a suspected attack in Chintagufa in the Bastar region. The CRPF — the mainstay for the anti-Maoist operations — has suffered losses elsewhere also. On Thursday, during an operation in Munger in Bihar, two CRPF men were killed in IED explosions.

In Chhattisgarh, the government cannot step up the presence of the forces till May 12 because of the elections across the country.

“Our major concern remains south Bastar and Sukma where Maoist cadres are flexing muscles. They have killed helpless poll officials who had nothing to do with security,” said an official at North Block.

The government may carry out targeted operations with full force after counting is over on May 16. At least 10,000 more troops may be deployed in Bastar after the poll process is over in order to saturate the area, sources said.

Some see in the attacks a build-up to a “celebration” of 10 years of formation of the CPI(Maoist) on September 21. At the fourth central committee meeting last year, it was decided the decadal anniversary would be “celebrated on a huge scale all over the country”.

Interrogation of arrested leaders earlier this year and seized pamphlets revealed that a poll boycott campaign was launched around January.

For the security forces, the run-up to the “celebrations” in September will be particularly challenging in Bastar, the sources said.