BHUBANESWAR: Hours before the second phase polls, Maoist violence rocked Kandhamal district where Left Wing extremists allegedly gunned down a woman polling supervisor and set ablaze a vehicle on Wednesday.
Polling supervisor Sanjukta Digal, a Gram Rojgar Sevak, was shot in the head near Barahala village under Gochhapada police limits when their vehicle had stopped following a landmine explosion.
Assistant sector officer Prakash Chandra Dash, who was accompanying the team, said the Maoists started firing indiscriminately when the driver was trying to reverse the vehicle from the spot after hearing the explosion. There were five polling supervisors inside the vehicle.
“The landmine exploded just before our vehicle reached the spot. The whole area was covered in dust and smoke after the blast and we were unable to see one another. Sanjukta was hit by a bullet in the head. We suspect they were targeting our vehicle. Fortunately, four of us managed to escape unhurt,” Dash said.
Though a grievously injured Sanjukta was immediately rushed to nearby hospital, she was declared brought dead.
As the news spread, her relatives and locals thronged the hospital only to find that she is no more.
Her husband Jimendra Digal said he had dropped her at Loising school from where she was to leave along with other staff for the designated booth at Barahala. “Someone informed me that Maoists attacked the vehicle following which my wife has been injured. I rushed to the hospital and found her dead,” said an inconsolable Jimendra.
DGP in-charge Bijay Kumar Sharma said senior officers and additional forces have been sent to Phulbani. Security has been enhanced and special arrangements are being made in the Naxal-affected areas to avoid any untoward incident. “We are hopeful that elections will be held without any further violence,” he added.
Locals said Maoists had earlier warned people against participating in the poll process. Though administration assured them to provide adequate security arrangements, Dash alleged that no police personnel accompanied them when they were on their way to the polling station.
Earlier in the day, a group of Maoists had waylaid a vehicle carrying election officials and set it on fire after asking the poll staff to get down. The staff were let off unharmed though. The poll officials were heading towards a booth in Mungunipadar village under Phiringia police limits when they were intercepted by the Left wing extremists.
Soon after the incident, ADG (Operations) R P Koche rushed to Kandhamal to take stock of the situation. He held discussions with Kandhamal SP Prateek Singh and other senior police officials.