Elections in Dantewada: How ballot vs bullet makes for a tragic contest
Naxals make repeated attempts to make democracy bow down to violence but while their nefarious attempts have often resulted in innocent lives being snuffed out, have never managed to intimidate the power of elections.
Democracy can never be subjugated by violence but Naxals in Chhattisgarh have made repeated attempts to undermine the election process in many areas of the state. Dantewada is once such area here that often witnesses innocent blood being spilled in dastardly attacks aimed at creating an atmosphere of fear.
On Tuesday, BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi and four others lost their lives when their convoy was targeted by Naxals using an improvised explosive device (IED). It once again showed the lengths Naxals are willing to go to stay relevant and remain a threat to peace and prosperity of people at large.
Tragic as Tuesday's incident was, it was not the first time that Naxals have carried out such a brazen and cowardly attack. On the 25th of May in 2013, they had targeted a convoy of Congress leaders in Darbha valley and killed 27, including state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and former state minister Mahendra Karma. At the time, Naxals had used fallen trees to block the road and once the convoy had stopped, they triggered IED and subsequently opened fire.
Initial reports suggest that Tuesday's tragic attack followed a similar pattern with IED planted under the road that the convoy of BJP MLA was taking. Once the blast was triggered, Naxals opened fire.
Attacks of such kind often point to how desperate Naxals are in the face of strong action against them by security forces. The state of Chhattisgarh sees tight security - especially in Naxal-affected areas and especially before and during elections. Dantewada and Bastar are two such areas where the maximum number of security forces are deployed to ensure people are not intimidated by Naxals who have made it a habit to warn them against casting their votes.
This year, 80,000 security forces and several drones have been deployed in Bastar alone to ensure peace prevails here. While Bastar votes in the first phase on April 11, Dantewada votes in the second phase on April 18. Dense forest and a hilly landscape makes it easy for Naxals to carry out sheltered attacks and then make their escape. In recent times, however, satellite imagery has been used to track them down and prevent tragic attacks from taking place. Nonetheless, some incidents - like the one on Monday - continue to remain a challenge for the local administration and security forces here.