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Dacoits pose threat to polls in Madhya Pradesh

The dacoits, who are armed with sophisticated weapons, are active in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh, which in the 60s used to be a virtual death trap for security forces.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2003 20:25 IST

Election officials in Madhya Pradesh have a unique problem on hand - bandit gangs that issue diktats asking people to vote for certain candidates on the basis of caste.

As many as nine gangs are active in the state's northern belt, making Monday's assembly election a tough challenge for law enforcement officials.

The dacoits, who are armed with sophisticated weapons, are active in the Chambal region, which in the 60s used to be a virtual death trap for security forces.

The affected districts are Bhind, Shivpuri, Datia, Morena, Gwalior and Sheopur. The bandit gangs, which do not hesitate to kill, are said to wield power to influence the results of 30 constituencies.

"Caste is an important factor in northern Madhya Pradesh. The dacoits are very particular about their castes," a police official told IANS.

"Through their caste affiliations and guns, the dacoits can influence the voting. If they issue orders to villagers to vote for a candidate of a particular caste, villagers will have to follow the orders or face death," he said.

He, however, added that no gang had issued diktats for the coming polls -- yet.

In the last elections in 1998, Chambal witnessed large-scale violence.

Ganglords active in the region are Dayaram Gadaria, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Hazrat Rawat, Ramesh Jatav, Mewaram Jatav, Salim Gujjar, Dadua, Rajan Gujjar and Raghuvir Yadav.

This time, in Bhind district, 447 polling booths out of 1,114 have been declared "sensitive", an official euphemism which indicates it could see violence. The same goes for 380 out of the 1,104 polling booths in Morena district.

A large security force, including those of paramilitary troopers, is in place. The Border Security Force (BSF) has been deployed for the first time in Chambal.

"Apart from BSF, we are also deploying battalions of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) in the area," said the official.

The police have also sealed the borders of dacoit-infested districts.

According to the police, 229 Congress candidates, 230 Bharatiya Janata Party candidates, 157 Bahujan Samaj Party and 161 Samajwadi Party candidates have been provided with guards. These will be with the candidates around the clock.

Two dozen candidates of other parties and independents have also been provided with state protection.

First Published: Nov 27, 2003 11:27 IST