Gaya: Khaki, olive green and black – these are the dominant colours in the landscape of south and central Bihar ahead of the polls. On the eve of the first phase of polling the entire Maoist belt – ‘The Red Corridor’ from Banka to Kaimur – has virtually turned into a war zone with the presence of contingents of the state police, and Central Armed Para-military Forces (CAPFs).
Fifteen Maoist-affected districts of the state go to polls in the first two phases of polling – 12 October and 16 October. The role of CAPFs has increased after the Election Commission of India’s (EC) new diktat – a first of its kind—that each and every polling booth in the state should be in command of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
“Considering the gravity of the ground situation in Bihar during elections, especially in the Maoist infested districts, the EC has ordered for the first time that all the 62779 polling stations in the state should be under the command of the CRPF. For this, 250 companies of CAPFs have been deployed. The first two phases of polling are crucial as both will be in Bihar’s most sensitive region. If this experiment becomes successful, the EC will replicate it in future elections,” Inspector General, CRPF, Bihar, Arun Kumar told Firstpost.
The CAPFs comprise CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF), Rapid Action Force (RAF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB).
In view of the repeated Naxal threats and the call to boycott the polls, the security cover across the Red Corridor has been scaled-up. Out of 38 districts, 33 are affected by Maoists.
“Due to Maoist threat, 47 polling booths have been shifted in consultation with political parties and EC. Because in these areas the Naxals will try to cause maximum damage to poll parties and security forces through landmine blasts. We’ve already recovered a large number of landmines and IEDs. The islands in the riverine belt are also safe haven for the Maoists and to track them, we’re using UAVs. We’re constantly changing our operational tactics. This election will witness one of the largest mobilizations of central para-military forces (more than 60,000) in Bihar. We’re engaged in multiple roles, from protecting the booths and voters to the polling staff as well,” added Arun Kumar, who’s also Force Coordinator (Bihar) for CAPFs.
The CAPFs in collaboration with Bihar Police, Bihar Military Police, Special Action Force and Special Task Force have chalked out an elaborate strategy to counter and nullify the possible Maoist attack during the polls.
Counter-offensive of central forces to nullify Maoists:
· First-time use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) ‘Netra’ to monitor polling in deep sensitive interiors and riverine belt.
· Special bomb disposal squad.
· Use of dog squad, with new breed of Belgian Shepherd sniffer dogs to track landmines and IEDs.
· 27 Anti-mining vehicles deployed.
· Special training by experts from IED Institute, Pune on handling and diffusing explosives.
· The booths in Naxal-infested areas shall have Naxal police stations, with a strike team of 20 personnel armed with sophisticated weapons and anti-riot equipment.
· Air ambulances in vulnerable and high sensitive zones.
Amongst the Naxal infested districts, Jamui and Gaya are the most sensitive. Out of 250 CAPF companies, the highest number, 25, have been deployed in Gaya alone, followed by 20 in Jamui.
Dhirendra Verma, Commandant, 159 Battalion of CRPF said, “Gaya is the most sensitive and volatile district in Bihar in terms of Maoist activities. It’ll go to polls in the second phase on 16 October, but we’re already on our toes and conducting regular combing operation to sanitize the polling station areas. As Gaya, Jamui, Banka, Nawada and Aurangabad are bordering with Jharkhand and the Palamau district, a stronghold of the Maoists, it makes these districts highly sensitive. We’ve already recovered IEDs (cylinder bombs) and landmines in Gaya district.”