Land mines biggest challenge for security forces in first phase of Bihar polls

Police in Bihar are pulling out all the stops to neutralize the Maoist threat in 71 seats in districts affected by Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) like Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Munger, Lakhisarai, Jamui, Banka, Rohtas and Jehanabad in the first phase of assembly election in the state.

Bihar witnessed many incidents of Maoist attacks during 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2010 Assembly elections. In 2009, Maoists blew up 10 government buildings and killed seven people, including five constables, a sub-inspector and a magistrate.

In 2010, a political leader and 10 security people were killed in Maoist attacks during the election. In 2014, five security persons were killed and 16 injured in separate attacks.

A senior police officer said that though Maoist activities had been on the wane in recent years, authorities did not want to take any chances. “Land mines are the biggest challenge in Maoist areas, as they cause heavy damage and are difficult to detect.” he said.

In Bihar, 16 districts are Maoist affected, but Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui and Lakhisarai remain the most vulnerable, the officer said.

Sources said that several Superintendents of Police (SPs) had asked the police headquarters for satellite phones, additional central paramilitary forces and deep search metal detectors to look for landmines.

Another challenge for Bihar is that most of the vulnerable districts share a border with Jharkhand. A series of meetings between senior police officials of Bihar and Jharkhand have already been held in the past few weeks to work in proper coordination during the polls.

In the past, even political leaders have found it difficult to campaign in these areas, where Maoists routinely issue threats and give a call to boycott the election process. They are known to ruthlessly enforce their diktats in their strongholds where many booths have the ignominious record of zero polling.

“The biggest worry for the administration is to provide security to candidates and ensure that people come out in large numbers on voting day. While security at polling booths is usually adequate, the route that voters undertake is highly vulnerable. Polling parties, too, are soft targets,” said another officer.

An officer of the rank of Inspector General of Police involved in the deployment strategy said adequate numbers of SAP, STF, CRPF and CoBRA jawans had already been deployed in Gaya-Aurangabad districts.

Munger range Deputy Inspector General of Police Manu Maharaaj said he apprehended that Maoists may execute a major incident in Jamui, Munger and Lakhisarai districts out of frustration caused by sustained and prolonged anti-Maoists operations by the police and security forces.

He said the police have formed road-opening parties to check for mines under culverts and on trees and all possible places where claymore mines can be planted. “All culverts in the districts would be given numbers so that police parties could check them thoroughly, besides examining if any explosives are fixed anywhere and also if any wires are drawn from any side,” he said.

“In Aurangabad and Nawada, the district police adopt the strategies of area domination, cordon-and-search operations, conduct flag marches to build confidence among people, provide special security to targets of the Maoists and conduct frequent vehicle checks at random,” said IG Rakesh Rathi, Magadh range.



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