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Odisha: Maoists gun down polling party member, torch vehicles on the day before phase-2 of elections

Police suspect that the KKBN (Kalahandi-Kandhamal- Boudh-Nayagarh) division of the CPI(Maoist) were involved in both the incidents.

As India moves into the second phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, incidents of violence are being reported from various states.

After incidents of political violence registered in states of West Bengal and Odisha, there have been reports that a group Maoists had struck on the eve of the second phase of elections in Odisha, gunning down a woman polling party staff and setting ablaze three poll vehicles on way to their booths on Wednesday, police said.

The incidents occurred in the Maoist affected Kandhamal district, where the Maoists have asked people to boycott the elections.

Sector Officer, Sanjukta Digal, 26, a gram rozgar sevak at Luisingi panchayat, was gunned down by Maoists when a polling vehicle was passing through a forest near Barahala booth.  A landmine planted by Maoists allegedly blasted in front of the polling vehicle. The driver immediately took a U-turn but the Maoists hiding in the forest then started firing at the vehicle. Sanjukta was grievously injured and was declared dead upon reaching the hospital.

Four other polling personnel in the vehicle were unhurt. The polling party was going to the Barahala booth under Gochhapada police limits.

In the other incident, the Maoists torched a vehicle carrying election officials to a polling booth in a village in remote Phiringia police station area.

Kandhamal district collector and returning officer, D Brunda said according to the initial report, armed Maoists in uniform asked the officials to get down from the vehicle before they set it ablaze.

Police confirmed that though all the officials are safe, it was not clear what happened to poll materials like the EVMs.

Police suspect that the KKBN (Kalahandi-Kandhamal- Boudh-Nayagarh) division of the CPI(Maoist) were involved in both the incidents.

Recently, Maoists, in their attempt to intimidate voters, had put up posters across Odisha, trying to dissuade them from voting in the 2019 Lok Sabha election which commenced on April 11.

Posters which read: “Lok Sabha aur Vidhan Sabha chunav ka bahiskar karo (boycott the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Odisha),” attributed to the proscribed CPI (Maoist) had come up in as many as 100 spots, including in the district headquarters town of Nuapada, Odisha.

The Maoists had also tried to terrorise voters by planting live wires used in detonators. Some posters said that bombs have been planted. This was done to create fear in the minds of the general public.

Similar incidents were reported during the first phase of the assembly elections in 18 out of 90 assembly constituencies in Chhattisgarh last year. Maoists in Chattisgarh had threatened the local villagers of Dantewada, Bijapur, and Sukma to not only ‘boycott’ the elections but also to vacate the area.

The Maoist’s had also resorted to vandalism and blackening of the EC posters put up to encourage voting in Maoist affected areas.

Five Lok Sabha constituencies Aska, Kandhamal, Sundergarh, Bargarh, and Bolangir and 35 Assembly constituencies under them will go to elections in the second phase of 2019 polls on Thursday in Odisha.

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