Maharashtra: Unprecedented security in Gadchiroli

Mumbai: Gadchiroli, the Red corridor of the state, will resemble a war zone in the run-up to the forthcoming state assembly election, as an unprecedented number of security personnel are going to be deployed in the district, amid fears of possible disruption by Naxals.

The scale of deployment of central and state paramilitary forces, along with the reserves of the district police will be double the numbers deployed during the parliamentary election held in April-May, a top official in the Director General of Police (DGP) office said.

Only last Sunday, two suspected Naxals were gunned down by security forces in an encounter in Narekesa forest area at Gyrapatti, North Gadchiroli.

The encounter spot was suspected to be a hideout of top Naxal commander Bhaskar, the mastermind of the May 1 ambush on a police convoy, in which 15 C-60 commandos had been killed.

The incident had reinforced the writ of the insurgent group (in the district), which was presumed to have taken a beating following the gunning down of 40 Naxals in two separate encounters in April 2018.

Sources said that at least 15 dalams (Naxal groups of 10-15 cadres) are still active in the district, especially in the southern parts bordering Chhattisgarh and Telangana.

The official, who spoke requesting anonymity, said that of the 350 Central Reserve Force (CRPF) companies sought by the state for the assembly poll security duty, more than 60 companies would be dispatched to Gadchiroli district alone.

Another 12 CRPF companies would be deployed in neighbouring Gondia district, which is partly affected by Maoist insurgency. With 30 companies of the CRPF already camping in the district, the arrival of fresh forces would take their strength to 90.

Apart from additional CRPF companies, the state police will mobilise 25 additional companies of the Stare Reserve Police Force (SRPF) personnel in the district during the elections.

“The 13,100 paramilitary forces (one company consists of 100 personnel) will act as a force-multiplier for the 6,000-strong district police force,” sources said, adding the total security personnel in the district will go up to 19,000 during the polls.

The deployment is a little less than a double of the total 10,000 deployed during the Lok Sabha poll.

Sources said apart from the additional manpower, the state police has sought at least three helicopters from the Centre for election duty. This will be in addition to the two helicopters already in use by the Anti-Naxal-Operation (ANO) teams.

“The helicopters will be used to transport election officials, security men and EVMs to the polling booths located in the interiors of the state,” the official said.

This has been the pattern during elections in the district for over the last two decades, as Naxals plant mines and explosive devices on the routes leading to remote booths in the district.

By Debasish Panigrahi

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