Insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh is one of the five states where Assembly elections will be placed in November-December. As the state gears up for the two-phase polls on 12 and 20 November, tensions have been on the increase, with Maoists issuing warnings against voting, election booths being established in villages for the first time in 20 years, and alliances between formed between regional and national parties.
The conflict between security forces and the insurgents in Chhattisgarh is likely to escalate ahead of the polls, with both sides scrolling up the pressure in terms of the strength of the forces and cadre, as well as arms and ammunition. In Naxal strongholds such as Bastar and Dantewada, security personnel, comprising jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed aplenty.
The government and police are expected to be on the biggest alert in the run-up to the elections as insurgents have threatened to disrupt voting. Despite precaution, a Maoist attack on a Doordarshan crew and a convoy of police personnel on 30 October consequenced in the death of the DD cameraperson, Achutyanand Sahu, and three policemen. They were attacked around Nilwaya village in the Aranpur area of Dantewada district. Another attack was also reported in Bacheli, where five people, comprising two Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel, were killed.
However, in a letter dated 2 November, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) showed regret for Sahu’s death and said: “journalists were not enemies, but friends”. Sainath of the CPI (Maoist)’s Darbha Divisional Committee said: “…There are regular attacks on villages; villagers are killed in fake encounters; they are slapped with fake cases, and fake surrenders are orchestrated. In this environment, work began on 1 October to construct a road connecting Aranpur to Burgum. To protest this development, we ambushed a police unit on 30 October.”
The Dantewada incident not only highlights the significance of the elections being organized at Maoist hotbeds but is also a chilling reminder of the Darbha Valley massacre in 2013, in which much of the Chhattisgarh Congress’ top leadership of the time was wiped out.