Weddings, a casualty
“My mother is going through sleepless nights,” said Manuram Korram, a tribal school teacher in Tumnarh, Dantewada. Mr. Korram belongs to a polling party of four members who will supervise polling in a remote village, about which he has no information so far. There are 10,580 persons like Mr. Korram, whose families will live in fear till the elections are over. “I have cancelled my son’s wedding as I am not sure if I will return after the polls,” said the father of another poll worker. Mr. Korram is worried more about having a security contingent than going without one – “The Maoists have told me I will be safe so long as I do not bring paramilitary forces,” he said.
Free rides and boats
Thanks to the elections, a few thousand voters on the northern bank of the Indrawati River, will get a free boat ride on polling day. The administration and the Election Commission have agreed that it is neither safe nor possible to implement the polling process on the northern bank, and all the booths are being transferred to the southern banks. “We have two motorboats, each costing Rs. 2.5 lakh. The boats can ferry 50-60 people at a time and will be handed over to the locals after the election,” said Dantewada collector, K.C. Debsenapati.
Schools turn lodges
In the 50-km stretch from Narainpur district headquarter towards un-surveyed forest land in Abujhmarh, there are five schools in Benaur, Devgaon, Garhbengal, Halami Munjmetta and Pharasgaon. Some of these schools house security forces. This is a contentious issue – last time, the school education department took back its schools after a Supreme Courts judgement asked paramilitary forces to be removed from these institutions. But the forces are back this year, and the police chief of the State has told reporters that there is nothing wrong with this. “We have taken permission from the Election Commission before putting up the additional forces in schools,” DGP Ram Niwas said.
Gambling on a surname
Alka Mudaliar, wife of slain Congress leader Uday Mudaliar, is contesting from Rajnandgaon. More importantly, Mrs. Mudaliar is pitted against the Chief Minister in this constituency. She’s not the only kin of a killed leader contesting this time around. Devati Karma, wife of Mahendra Karma — who at one point was the leader of the opposition in the Assembly and was also killed in the Darbha attack in May — is contesting from Dantewada. In the second phase of the polls, Umesh Patel, second son of the late president of the State Congress, Nand Kumar Patel, will fight from Kharsia in north Chhattisgarh.
Who’s the enemy here?
Nearly 600 companies of paramilitary forces and over 25,000 personnel of the State police have been posted in south Chhattisgarh for the elections. The paramilitaries and the police are expected to join hands to battle the “biggest internal security threat to the country.” But earlier this week, CRPF commandoes mercilessly beat up the police in Narainpur district, a constable reported. Apparently, both sides were attempting to fill diesel in their vehicles, and an altercation began, which led to a fight. “This is very unfortunate. The Maoists will laugh at us,” said the constable. Several cases have been registered against the central forces.
Residents of several villages, deep inside Maoist-controlled areas, have never voted in any election since independence. Two journalists, perhaps the senior and the junior-most in Dantewada — NRK Pillai and Mangal Kunjam — who visited some of these villages behind mountains loaded with iron ore in Bacheli and Bailadila, claim that at least, “15,000-20,000 people reside in these areas. They do not have their names on any government record in India – truly they are State-less residents,” Mr. Pillai said.