Dayamani Barla alleged that PLFI cadres were intimidating her party supporters on behalf of her rival, Jharkhand Party MLA Enos Ekka.
Activist Dayamani Barla, Aam Admi Party's candidate from Khunti constituency, wrote to the Election Commission officials on Thursday alleging repeated intimidation of her campaign members by cadres of the People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), allegedly on behalf of Barla's rival Jharkhand Party MLA Enos Ekka. Since April 5, Ms. Barla's supporters have been threatened thrice, including the assault of a party member with a rifle on Wednesday evening, she said.
Khunti police have registered a FIR against the PLFI, an armed group.
“I was waiting in the jeep for the others to return when six armed men surrounded the vehicle. They asked me to hand over the key, I refused. They pulled me out of the jeep and hit me with rifle butts on my stomach,” said Javed Ansari who was driving the group as they campaigned in villages in Karra in Khunti. Pushpa Aindh, among the members of Adivasi Moolvasi Raksha Manch campaigning in the area for Ms. Barla, recounted that when the group returned to the jeep, six armed men made them stand in a queue and photographed them with mobile phones. “They said 'we have taken your photographs, so if you return here to campaign, we will identify you to teach you a lesson'. They made me touch their feet and repeat after them that we will no longer campaign for Dayamani Barla but only for Enos Ekka.”
Khunti Superintendent of Police Anish Gupta said the police's preliminary investigations corroborated the group's allegation in their FIR. “Our investigations show it was PLFI. We detained some men but allowed them to go after questioning,” he said.
Before this, on April 6, several of the campaign members including Dayamani Barla's husband Nelson Barla were detained by a group of men in Beerbanki market. “They took the jeep's key and our mobile phones and threatened us against campaigning. We managed to escape to return to our Khunti office after walking 20 km through the jungle at night,” said Arun Topno, one of those detained on Monday. Two days earlier, armed men had threatened the village mukhiya in Jabra and Karra working closely with the campaign, threatening to set their huts on fire.
“Parties close to corporate houses feel threatened by our fighting back in this election. Of the 14 candidates in the Khunti election, why are the AAP's campaign members alone being threatened? What does this say of the nature of this democracy?” said Dayamani Barla.
Kolbira MLA Enos Ekka did not respond to phone calls and SMSs. Khunti will go to the polls on April 17.