Maharashtra police’s special operations wing has advised politicians to avoid flying commercial helicopters over three Naxalite-affected districts in the state — Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia.
This comes after the Border Security Force (BSF), deployed in these districts to ensure peaceful polling, issued alerts about Naxalite plans to target such helicopters.
The Centre has deployed 27 companies of BSF in these Maoist-infiltrated areas, to assist the state police in maintaining law and order during state polls.
“Politicians should avoid flying over these areas,” said N S Jagtap, spokesperson for the Gadchiroli police.
After a patrol party of the BSF was attacked by armed Naxalites at Tadgaon in Gadchiroli, 360 km south of Nagpur, the BSF has sought assistance from the air force. The BSF has requisitioned four Mi17 helicopters for intensifying surveillance in the dense forests of these areas where Naxalites have their stronghold, state police sources said.
A top officer of the state police’s special operations wing told HT on Monday, that the request had been conveyed to the Centre and Mi17 helicopters, which have a proven record in anti-insurgency operations, were likely to be made available “anytime” this week.
Unlike Mi17 helicopters, commercial helicopters fly at a low altitude and can be targeted easily from the ground.
During general elections in April this year, Naxalites armed with automatic rifles attacked a commercial helicopter owned by the state at Dinogonda in Gadchiroli. The helicopter was deputed with the police for patrolling during the polls.
“We have informed the home ministry about the situation in these area and our dire need for air cover,” the officer said.
According to the state police, an estimated 800 to 1,000 heavily armed Maoist cadres are suspected to have infiltrated into Gadchiroli and Gondia districts from neighbouring state Chhattisgarh to disrupt the election process.
“Two encounters in last two days, in which seven Naxalites have been killed by BSF and state commandos, reinforce the intelligence we have been receiving,” the officer said.