The fear of more Maoist violence has led the Election Commission to change the poll timing in Bihar's Sheohar district, a day after Maoist guerrillas triggered a landmine blast, killing six policemen ahead of the second phase of assembly elections on Sunday.
Polling will now be held between 7 am and 3 pm instead of till 5 pm, sources in the office of the Bihar chief electoral officer in Patna said.
The sources added that the decision was taken as the killing of six policemen had created panic among the people of Sheohar.
Six policemen, including an inspector, were killed and one seriously injured on Friday when they were returning to the Shyampur Bhitta police station in Sheohar after patrolling as Maoists triggered a landmine blast. The guerrillas set off the mine, hidden beneath a culvert, as the police vehicle passed over it, a police official said.
Bihar police chief Neelmani has assured voters that heavy deployment of security forces, including central paramilitary personnel, has been made to provide protection to voters during the polls.
"I appeal to voters to exercise their franchise without any fear...security forces will be available for their security and protection. I will request people to come out of their homes and reach polling stations," Neelmani told newspersons at a press meet Saturday.
"There is no need of panic or fear...police will ensure violence-free polls," he said.
Sheohar, about 90 km from Patna, is one of the six districts where polling will be held on Sunday in the second phase of the six-phase elections to the 243-member Bihar assembly. The district is considered to be a stronghold of Maoists.
Police officials here admit that the threat of more Maoist violence looms large over the Bihar assembly polls.
The Communist Party of India-Maoist had declared early this month that it would intensify attacks to disrupt the election process and to enforce its boycott of the polls.
The state government has admitted that 33 of Bihar's 38 districts are Maoist-affected.