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Impact of Maoist attacks falls as forces gain ground ahead of Chhattisgarh assembly elections

Maoists have struck thrice in Bastar since dates were announced for the Chhattisgarh assembly elections, but their influence and ability to stage strikes appears to be waning with security forces turning up the heat, police data shows.

chhattisgarh elections 2018 Updated: Nov 10, 2018 08:04 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Raipur
Chhattisgarh Election 2018,Chhattisgarh Election 2018 News,Chhattisgarh Constituency
Till November 8 this year, 203 incidents of violence involving Maoists and security forces were reported from the state against 265 in 2017, according to police data. (AP/File Photo)

Maoist have struck thrice in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar since elections to five states were announced on October 6, but their influence and ability to stage strikes appears to be waning with security forces turning up the heat, police data shows. Bastar will go to the polls on November 12.

Till November 8 this year, 203 incidents of violence involving Maoists and security forces were reported from the state against 265 in 2017, according to police data. In this period, the number of rebels killed by security forces was 103, up from 77 last year — an increase of about 33%. But the number of security personnel killed fell to 48 from 59 last year — a decrease of about 18%.

If compared to 2013 (the last state election year), the number of casualties have fallen dramatically. There were 143 incidents of violence that year, in which the Maoists killed 159 civilians and 111 security personnel.

Among the civilian casualties were 24 Congress leaders, including then state party chief Nand Kumar Patel and former state minister Mahendra Karma, who were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in Sukma.

According to special director general of police (anti-naxal operations) DM Awasthi, the Maoists have tried to step up violence ahead of this year’s polls primarily to scare voters but they have not been able to pull off a massive strike as they did during previous elections. Still it isn’t for want of trying; in the past 52 days forces in the region have unearthed 42 IEDs, a security forces official said on condition of anonymity.

On Thursday, the Maoists blew up a bus with an IED in Dantewada, killing four civilians and a CISF jawan. On October 30, three policemen and Doordarshan cameraperson Achyutanand Sahu were killed in a Maoist attack in Dantewada. Three days before that, four CRPF personnel were killed and two injured when the rebels blew up a bullet-proof bunker vehicle in Bijapur.

In 2013, after the elections were announced, there were 35 incidents of Maoist violence, police data shows. “The recent attacks this year were by the Maoist jan militias (foot soldiers), not by the battalions that are known for ambushes,” Awasthi said. The number of security personnel killed has come down from 111 in 2013 to 48 till November 8, 2018.

The police have listed multiple factors for the diminution in Maoists’ striking power. “Better mobile connectivity has helped us to improve intelligence and roads have provided the forces access to new areas in the Bastar region,” Awasthi said.

According to police officers, the core areas of Maoist influence are now limited to three districts in Bastar region — Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada — as compared to seven about a decade ago. But Alok Putul, a Raipur-based expert on Maoists, said confining the rebels to three districts did not mean they were getting weak. “Since they are experts in guerrilla warfare, they know when and where to attack. Recruitment and training by Maoists is going on,” he said.

Congress spokesperson RP Singh accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of being “ineffective” in eradicating violence in Maoist-affected areas.

“In 2003, when the Congress was in power, there were only three blocks that were Maoist-affected. Now, 15 districts are under the grip of the Maoists. Even the chief minister’s district Kawardha is affected, which reflects the intention and capability of the BJP government,” Singh said.

BJP spokesperson Sacchinand Upasane claimed that development reached Bastar for the first time under BJP rule and weaned away people from the rebels’ influence. “They (Maoists) wanted to create hurdles in the election process but they will not be successful due to pressure by security forces,” Upasane said.

The Election Commission has deployed 65,000 additional security personnel for the two-phase Chhattisgarh elections on November 12 and 20.

First Published: Nov 10, 2018 08:04 IST