Several constituencies along the northern borders are identified as sensitive.
In the wake of Maoists killing a Doordarshan cameraman in Chhattisgarh on 30 October, the Telangana police has warned media persons against visiting Maoist-affected areas in the state ahead of the 7 December elections to the state Assembly. At least 20 to 25 Assembly constituencies along the northern borders of the state have been identified as sensitive areas.
The sudden spate in the presence and attacks by Maoists in both Chhattisgarh and Telangana hasn’t surprised the police, but indiscriminate firing by them on anyone visiting their stronghold has caught them unawares. The killing of a TDP MLA K. Sarveswara Rao and an ex-MLA Somu in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra two months ago, is still to be solved by the police.
Usually, the Maoists refrain from attacking media persons, even if they were from government-owned organisations, but they didn’t follow that norm in case of Doordarshan cameraman Achyutanandan Sahu in Chhattisgarh last week. He waved in the air his camera signalling at Maoists that he was a cameraman, but they didn’t stop firing at him.
Senior police officials who are manning the security arrangements in the Maoist-affected areas of Telangana said that the Maoists, who are under intense attack from the Central and state forces in Chhattisgarh and other neighbouring states for the last few years, are firm on making use of the ongoing elections to regain their presence and strike terror at anyone coming closer to them.
One can easily understand the tight security arrangements in Chhattisgarh going by the fact that as many as 65,000 paramilitary and state police were deployed to man about 4,336 polling stations in 18 Assembly constituencies out of the total 90, that will go to elections in the first phase on 12 November. The same forces would cover the remaining 72 constituencies in the second phase on 20 November.
Telangana, that goes to single phase polling on 7 December, will see deployment of around 55,000 personnel to cover around 5,000 Maoist affected areas in 13 Assembly constituencies from six border districts—Adilabad, Asifabad, Peddapally, Bhoopalapally, Kothagudem and Bhadrachalam. The state has sought 300 companies (each with 100 personnel) of Central forces for security during elections.
Posters in the name of Maoists have been pasted in interior villages of Kothagudem and Bhadrachalam districts, calling for boycott of the coming Assembly elections in Telangana. The extremists have attacked the ruling TRS for failing to fulfill the aspirations of the people who fought for the separate state and termed all other “bourgeoisie ruling parties” as betrayers.
The police predict that the armed squads which are in South Chhattisgarh, which goes to first phase polling on 12 November, would divert their attention to the northern borders of Telangana. The junction bordering Kothagudem-Bhadrachalam districts—connecting Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra and Orissa—would be the corridor along which Maoists move around, the police said.
In a recent meeting held by the Chief Electoral Officer in Hyderabad, Telangana DGP Mahender Reddy told political parties leaders that they should inform the local police about their visits to sensitive areas so that enough security would be provided to them. He cited the example of AP MLA Sarveswara Rao who went into the forest area without informing the local police of Araku.
The contesting candidates, too, would be informed of the same protocol once they file their nominations from 12 November. The police are taking extra caution to provide security to the contestants from Maoist-hit areas. The Special Branch (SB) wing of the police suspects that the Maoists are “badly waiting” for a sensational attack on a VIP, during the elections.
The same advisory has been issued to media persons also if they want to tour the Maoist-affected areas in the northern parts of Telangana. The Election Commission usually allows independent observers to monitor the polling process. This time, they will also be cautioned against venturing into interior areas without informing the local police, said an SB official.