In a significant development, Chhattisgarh's Bastar division, known for its Naxalite influence, is witnessing a historic moment as 126 polling booths have been established in 40 interior villages where voting is set to take place for the first time.
The first phase of voting in Chhattisgarh is scheduled for November 7, and it will encompass 20 seats, including 12 in the Bastar division. Conducting elections in the interior areas of Bastar has been a formidable challenge for the Election Commission and security forces, as the Maoist organization has historically boycotted elections.
In a remarkable development this year, significant progress has been achieved. A total of 126 polling booths have been established in 40 interior villages of the Bastar division where voting will take place for the first time. Previously, these areas were under the control of Naxalites, and due to security concerns and complex geographical conditions, polling stations could not be set up within these villages.
In the past, alternative polling stations were established in safer areas several kilometers away from the villages. Additionally, Naxalite orders warned that those who voted would have their fingers cut off, resulting in villagers refraining from voting. However, the circumstances have changed in recent years. Over the last four years, more than 60 security force camps have been established in the interior areas of Bastar, roads have been constructed, and the influence of Naxalites has diminished.
Madanlal Nag, Booth Level Officer (BLO) in Mundagaon, expressed the transformation in voter engagement. He noted that villagers are now more aware and enthusiastic about voting, a significant change from previous years when they hesitated to vote due to Naxalite influence. For the first time, all eligible men and women aged 18 years and above have registered their names and will cast their votes.
Chandameta, a village in the Darbha block of Bastar district, has 335 voters, and for the first time after India’s independence, a polling station has been established there. Previously, no road led to this village, and the polling center was located in Chhindgur village, 7 kilometers away, due to Naxalite activities. Orders to cut off the fingers of voters had deterred participation.
The introduction of a security force camp, development initiatives, roads, schools, electricity, drinking water, and healthcare facilities helped boost confidence among the villagers, leading to their disassociation from the Naxalite organization. Now, for the first time, a polling booth has been set up in Chandameta, with many elderly people voting for the first time in this Naxalite-prone region.
Raju Wagh, Camp Commander in Chandameta, highlighted the transformation and growing trust in security forces as development progressed, ultimately making the polling station a reality for this historic village.