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Jharkhand Police boosts firepower before polls

The police will get sophisticated weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles, to counter attempts by Maoist guerrillas to disrupt the polls.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Ranchi
PUBLISHED ON APR 02, 2004 12:57 PM IST

The Jharkhand police will get sophisticated weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles, to counter attempts by Maoist guerrillas to disrupt the coming general election, officials here said Thursday.

The home department has cleared the purchase of 500 AK-47 rifles and 1,000 INSAS rifles, an indigenously developed assault weapon, for the state police.

Maoist groups, who have a dominant presence in several districts of Jharkhand, have urged the people to boycott the polls and threatened to disrupt the elections to be held in two phases in the state.

On Wednesday, activists of the banned People's War Group raided a police outpost in Chaibasa district and looted 10 rifles and injured six constables.

Jharkhand Police plans to conduct aerial surveillance and launch combing operations against the rebels before the polls. Some 120 companies of paramilitary forces, or about 12,000 personnel, and about 3000 state police personnel will be deployed during the polls.

A home department official said the police had sought nearly 2,500 weapons to counter the Maoists.

"The AK-47 rifles are being purchased because the central home ministry expressed its unwillingness to provide more than 1,000 INSAS rifles," said the official.

The arms will be purchased from the central government's police modernisation fund.

"After the weapons arrive, we will launch sustained operations against the extremists. Maoist guerrillas have sophisticated weapons and it is a tough job to counter them with our old rifles," a senior police official involved in counter-insurgency operations told IANS.

"The rebels also have wireless sets that are more powerful than those with the police," he said.

In the last three elections in Jharkhand, Maoist guerrillas killed over 20 policemen and half a dozen poll officials. The rebels also chopped off the hands or other body parts of some 12 people who defied their boycott of these polls.

Six Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand will see voting in the first phase of the polls April 20. In the second phase on April 26, eight Lok Sabha seats will go to the polls.

Maoist guerrillas are active in 18 of the state's 22 districts. Nearly 465 people, including 152 policemen, have lost their lives in Maoist violence since Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in November 2000.

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