Dantewada, Chattisgarh: Three days before Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region goes to polls, four civilians and one person of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were killed on Thursday by Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) in Dantewada district.

Naxals also attacked a team of Congress workers, which included Chhavendra Karma, the son of Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma, who was killed in an ambush in 2013.

The attack comes a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi are scheduled to address rallies in and around Bastar, including Jagdalpur.

Workers of both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have stayed away from the village clusters in the interiors of Dantewada and Sukma, in the face of the threats by Naxals who have called for a election boycott through posters, leaflets and graffiti.

“There are 212 voting centres, of which we can’t campaign in 62 because the police have warned us against it. The Naxals have issued shoot-at-sight orders against all BJP campaigners. In Sukma, we can’t even use loudspeakers because everyone is on the Naxals’ hit list. All we can do is quietly go and put posters and flags here and there," said a senior BJP leader in Sukma, requesting anonymity.

BJP workers at an election centre in Sukma scrambled to wrap up election-related work before sundown, to avoid being targeted by Naxals, despite two gunmen provided by the state patrolling the area.

In 2013, Naxals had killed the entire state leadership of the Congress in Jeeram Ghati, which is halfway between Jagdalpur and Sukma. The insurgents stabbed Mahendra Karma 78 times.

Karma’s wife, Devti Karma, is the Congress candidate from the Dantewada constituency. However, she is forced to stay within city limits. “We cannot reach the people because we have been warned by the security forces that we are likely to be gunned down if we step out of this two-kilometre radius. In areas such as Katekalyan and Kuakonda, people can’t even vote because there is a complete clampdown by Naxals," she said.

Security personnel, who have been conducting area-domination exercises to ensure that there are no improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the area and also to keep Naxals at bay, say that the LWEs have upped their ante in the guerilla warfare.

“The Naxals’ tactics involve laying down spikes, pressure bombs and IEDs on roads, deploying short action teams of 2-3 people to take down small groups, psychological warfare through false propaganda, and targeted ambushes against forces. We are trying to sensitize people on these issues and hope to outsmart the Naxals," said Abhishek Pallav, the Dantewada superintendent of police.

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