Six hundred companies of central paramilitary forces will be deployed in Chhattisgarh for the two-phase poll in November, making the predominantly tribal southern areas of the state one of the most militarized zones in the world. Anticipating a single day poll, the State government had requisitioned nearly 1500 companies of central forces. While the Union Home Ministry has cut down the allocation, it is nearly double the 320 companies deployed during the last elections in 2008.
In the first phase of the election, 600 companies of central paramilitary forces will be deployed in 12 constituencies of south Chhattisgarh and six of Rajnandgaon according to a message faxed by the Home Ministry to the state administration.
Each company has roughly 120 to 135 personnel, hence around 80,000 central paramilitary forces will be posted in the seven districts of south Chhattisgarh and adjacent Rajnandgaon which have been the focus of the Maoist insurgency. Thirty-three battalions of central paramilitaries are already stationed in the area thus taking the total number of forces on the ground to 117,000. In addition, nearly 25,000 state police are also placed in south Chhattisgarh. The assembly polls in the predominantly Gond tribal area will thus have approximately 143,000 armed security personnel on-hand to monitor the process.
“The figure could be five thousand more or less,” said a senior official of State administration.
These seven districts of south Chhattisgarh and Rajnandgaon have a combined population of little over 45 lakh. So the ratio of security personnel to civilians in south-central Chhattisgarh would be 1:31.
At the peak of the conflict in 2011, the armed security personnel to civilian ratio in Afghanistan was 1:73, according to data released by Central Statistics Organization (CSO), Kabul and World Bank’s Development Indicators (WDI) under the chapter “Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers,” are read in conjunction. In Israel – one of the top militarized countries – it was 1:42 in 2011, as per WDI. Kashmir, which has often been referred as the “worlds most militarized conflict” has a civilian to security personnel ratio ranging from 1:21 to 1:27, in various non-governmental reports.
Despite this concentration of forces, the state administration will not be holding elections in 299 “hyper sensitive” polling stations of south Chhattisgarh. Senior officials of the state and central Home Ministry, have told The Hindu that holding the election in southern uplands of Bastar “could be fatal.”
Explaining the “causes of concern”, the ADG (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta said that the Maoists “may pursue (their plan to attack polling parties) more violently as they are under pressure.”
“The red rebels are getting distanced from locals and fast losing (mass base) as massive pressure is mounted on them in their areas. So, while, they gave an election boycott call earlier and remained dormant; this time the rebels may try some violent posturing,” the chief of State Intelligence said.
“But even if we had to push them (to conduct a fair election), as per Election Commission’s (EC) instructions, we will do that,” he added.
The Director General of Police (DGP) Ramniwas earlier told The Hindu that “to conduct a fair election” he needed “a massive deployment of central forces.”
In the second phase, the same 600 companies, minus the additional paramilitaries, will be deployed in 72 constituencies in 19 districts to administer polling in an area inhabited by little over two crore people.