At least 17 people were killed as Maoist guerrillas targeted polling officials and security personnel across four insurgency hit states, giving a violent start to India's general elections.
The states that were hit were Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Orissa, amongst the 17 states and union territories conducting elections in the first phase, where Maoists tried to implement their poll boycott in a hail of bullets and blasts.
In Chhattisgarh, holding elections for its 11 parliamentary seats, five members of a zonal reserve polling team members were killed in a landmine blast detonated by Maoists in Rajnandgaon district.
In the second incident, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed in Maroki village in the Maoist stronghold of Dantewada in an exchange of bullets with guerrillas.
Maoist attacks sparked panic at six polling stations in southern Bastar region after the guerrillas opened gunfire soon after voting began, police said.
About 20 tribals were in a queue outside the Mangnar polling centre in the interior of Dantewada when the attack took place, resulting in most voters fleeing in panic.
"Our forces exchanged fire with the Naxalites. The polling booths have been secured," Dantewada Superintendent of Police Rahul Sharma told a news channel.
Neighbouring Jharkhand, conducting elections over two phases, saw similar violence with seven Border Security Force (BSF) personnel heading to an election centre killed in a landmine explosion in Latehar district. The bus driver and his assistant were also killed instantly.
After the mine exploded, the Maoists opened fire at the bus, triggering a gun battle that ended on a bloody note.
The incident took place near a jungle near Aara village, Sarvendu Tathagat, the Latehar district deputy police commissioner, told IANS over telephone.
There were two other gun battles between security forces and Maoists in Jharkhand's Khuti and Palamau districts, disrupting voting in both places, police spokesman K.N. Pradhan said.
A policeman and a Home Guard were killed in adjoining Bihar when over a dozen Maoists opened fire at a polling station in Bankebazaar in Gaya district.
The rebels looted an electronic voting machine and four rifles. Two women voters in a queue at the polling centre were injured and were hospitalised.
In Orissa, the Maoists raided four polling stations and set fire to voting machines and a vehicle in Malkangiri and Sundargarh districts, the authorities said.
Three of the polling stations were in Malkangiri district and one in Sundargarh. The attacks disrupted polling, Inspector General of Police Sudhanshu Sarangi said.
"In one village, they burnt voting machines and an Election Commission vehicle," police officer Satyabrata Bhoi said.
The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which seeks to carry out an agrarian-based revolution, routinely calls for a boycott of all elections. It often enforces its boycott call with deadly attacks.