NEW DELHI: Security forces have increased surveillance in the wake of warnings from intelligence agencies that insurgents are planning lethal attacks as the state’s Naxal-hit Bastar region prepares for voting on 11 April in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
Stringent security measures were put in place for the assembly elections in November amid threats and sporadic attacks by the Naxals.
Now, intelligence units have warned of heightened activity among the Naxals under a new commander who is trained in armed warfare and the use of explosives.
“The Naxalites in India are now under the leadership of Basavaraj and there has been a shift in tactics from ambushes to greater use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). There is enough evidence and reports that indicate that Naxal cadres have been asked to reach Chhattisgarh’s Abhujmaad, the nerve centre of the outfit, to train and conduct major offensives, targeting politicians, security forces and electoral officers in the run-up to the elections," said an intelligence officer, requesting anonymity.
The Naxals cadres, who had been pushed back by the security forces in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh, have been asked to regroup and undergo training in IED and covert operations for the upcoming polls, according to an intelligence officer.
Security forces said that they were preparing to thwart any attack by cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
“We have adequately trained our forces and patrolling and area sanitization exercises have been stepped up. Under Basavraj, the Naxals are going for maximum assault and minimum damage (to their own cadres), so they are likely to use more IEDs to target troops and election officers. We had thwarted all attacks during the assembly elections and will do so now as well," said a senior officer of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
State police personnel and central paramilitary forces will be deployed on a war footing during the elections as 1,500 of the 6,500 Naxal cadres in Chhattisgarh are armed, the centre said.
At least 50,000 state and central forces will be deployed across all three phases of the elections, according to a person familiar with the matter.