Ballot still remains under Maoist shadow in Bastar

It is never been easy to vote in Chhattisgarh’s Maoists-hit Bastar, however, this time around 300-odd residents of Mukram, in South Bastar, are facing the threat of their fingers being chopped if they exercise their constitutional right.

None in the 13 villages including Mukram has dared to vote in any election held in the past decade, villagers said.

The rebels have put up hand-written posters in and around these villages reiterating the threat. “We don’t want our fingers to be chopped,” said a villager, who did not want to be identified, fearing reprisal by Maoists.

He said that none in these villages will vote this time as the rebel commanders have held meetings threatening villagers of dire consequences if they vote. At least 59 polling booths in three constituencies of Bastar region — Konta, where Mukram is, Bijapur and Dantewada — recorded zero votes in 2013 elections.

In a large number of booths, the voting percentage was less than 10%, local election commission officials said.

As compared to 70% voting in the 12 assembly constituencies of Bastar, these three recorded about 45%.

“I have not seen an EVM machine from close. Only saw them while they were being brought to Chitalnar in 2003. I was 15-years-old then and had gone to the polling station with my uncle,” says 30-year old Ghora Markam.

The Maoists had given a call to boycott elections in 2006 after clashes with state-sponsored Salwa Judum, which was disbanded after the Supreme Court ban in 2011.

Elections in the Red zonePOLL FOCUS1.78 lakh Total voters
210 Total polling booths Three important candidates in Sukma assembly constituency are incumbent Kawasi Lakma (Congress), Manish Kunjam (CPI) and Dhaniram Barse (BJP) In 2013, Kawasi got 27,210 votes and won the election 48% voting took place in 2013REBEL HOTBEDApril 24, 2017: 25 CRPF personnel killed near Burkapal in SukmaMarch 14, 2017: 14 CRPF personnel guarding road construction work killed at Bheji in SukmaApril 2010: 76 CRPF personnel killed near Mukram village. The police team was returning from Tadmetla. This was the biggest strike against security forces.

Fear grips several villages between Mukram and Burkapal, known as undeclared capital of Maoists, with threats pasted on every alternate tree along the dilapidated road by Maoists calling for poll boycott and criticising the government.

The only teacher in Mukarm village school, which reopened in 2008, two years after it was blown by Maoists, Telam Bheema , does not see the possibility of voting there.

“The booth of this village is in Chintalnaar (a small bazaar about 2 km away) not in the village. I was informed that no one voted for the last assembly election and I believe that in this election too no one will vote,” said Bheema, who is also the booth level officer ( BLO) of this village.

Another villager, Makaram Nanda (63), said the indelible ink on the finger after casting the votes could be fatal for villager. “Some people here were willing to vote but our booths are in Chintalnaar and people get killed or thrashed by the Maoists if they see the ink mark on the finger,” he said.

Mukram is situated at a distance of around 45 kilometer from nearest town Dornapal, 450 kilometers from Raipur.

Villagers have to travel at least 45 kilometers through unmotorable roads even for basic needs. Primary occupation of Mukram villagers is collecting forest produce and poultry. Bastar’s inspector general of police Shivanand Sinha said,

“We have conducted awareness drives in all zero polling booths and adequate security would be provided. We have also sent a proposal for shifting several polling booths but it is yet to be accepted.”

First Published: Nov 04, 2018 08:28 IST

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