Violent start to polling in Maoist areas, 11 killed (Lead)

New Delhi, April 16 (Inditop) Nine security personnel were among 11 people killed as Maoists attacked polling centres and government vehicles in four states Thursday, giving a violent start to India’s general elections.

Seven Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were killed in Jharkhand in a single attack while a policeman and a Home Guard were killed in adjoining Bihar, officials said. Maoists, who are opposed to the elections, also carried out attacks in Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

In Jharkhand’s Latehar district, the guerrillas detonated a landmine, killing the seven BSF personnel who were proceeding to an election centre. Their bus driver and his assistant were also killed instantly.

After the mine exploded, the Maoists opened fire at the bus, triggering a gun battle that ended on a bloody note.

The incident took place near a jungle near Aara village, Sarvendu Tathagat, the Latehar district deputy police commissioner, told IANS over telephone. The village is located about 140 km from Ranchi.

There were two other gun battles between security forces and Maoists in Jharkhand’s Khuti and Palamau districts, disrupting voting in both places, police spokesman K.N. Pradhan said.

Polling was also hit in seven other places of Palamau and Chatra districts as Maoists attacked voting stations.

In Bihar, over a dozen Maoists opened fire at a polling station in Bankebazaar in Gaya district, about 130 km from the state capital Patna, killing a policeman and a Home Guard.

The rebels looted an electronic voting machine and four rifles. Two women voters in a queue at the polling centre were injured and were hospitalised.

In Orissa, the Maoists raided four polling stations and set fire to voting machines and a vehicle in Malkangiri and Sundargarh districts, the authorities said.

Three of the polling stations were in Malkangiri district and one in Sundargarh. The attacks disrupted polling, Inspector General of Police Sudhanshu Sarangi told IANS.

“In one village, they burnt voting machines and an Election Commission vehicle,” police officer Satyabrata Bhoi said.

Maoist attacks also sparked panic at six polling stations in Chhattisgarh’s southern Bastar region after the guerrillas opened gunfire soon after voting began, police said.

But no one was injured in the violence in Dantewada and Narayanpur districts, Additional Director General of Police Girdhari Nayak told IANS.

About 20 tribals were in a queue outside the Mangnar polling centre in the interior of Dantewada when the attack took place. Most voters panicked and fled.

“Our forces exchanged fire with the Naxalites. The polling booths have been secured,” Dantewada Superintendent of Police Rahul Sharma told Times Now news channel.

The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which seeks to carry out an agrarian-based revolution, routinely calls for a boycott of all elections. It often enforces its boycott call with deadly attacks.