Maharashtra police’s special operations wing has advised politicians not to fly in commercial helicopters over the three Naxal infested districts in the state — Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia.
This advisory 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 the 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 came under Naxal attack at Tadgaon in Gadchiroli, 360 kilometers 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 Naxals 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 therefore can be targeted easily from ground.
During the general elections in April, 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 to disrupt the poll process.