BHUBANESWAR/BHAWANIPATNA: A journalist working with a vernacular daily was killed in an IED blast triggered by left-wing extremists in Kalahandi district's Madanpur Rampur block on Saturday, days ahead of the panchayat polls in the state.
The scribe Rohit Biswal had gone to Domkarlakhunta to cover the surfacing of Maoist posters and banners unaware that the area was rigged with explosive devices.
Police suspect that Rohit, a native of Mohangiri village, stepped on a pressure IED as he went towards one of the posters put up by the Red rebels. He succumbed on the spot at about 1 pm. A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) team has rushed to the spot after the incident.
Sources said at least five posters and banners were spotted by the locals of the Madanpur-Rampur block at about 10.30 am. The banners apparently appealed to the locals to boycott the ensuing panchayat polls. Rohit, who received information about the incident, had gone to cover it.
"Police officers along with a bomb detection and disposal squad are on the spot and are screening the area," Kalahandi SP Saravana Vivek M said.
Police suspect the LWE cadres of Kandhamal-Kalahandi-Boudh-Nayagarh (KKBN) division could be likely behind the explosion since the unit is active in the junction.
The incident has signaled the resurfacing of Maoist violence during polls in the state and has raised questions about security preparedness ahead of polls as the journalist was able to come near the posters before security personnel could get there.
"According to the standard operating procedure of the security forces, the personnel wait for a few hours when such posters surface and then the bomb detection and disposal squads are called in. This is done to ensure that the security personnel do not walk into an ambush," said a senior officer.
Odisha is going into the panchayat elections beginning February 16 in five different phases. Though Maoist violence has witnessed a significant drop in the state, there are pockets where the Red rebels have been active.
During the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in April 2019, a lady polling official was shot dead by Maoists in Kandhamal district. In another incident, the Red rebels had also set a vehicle carrying the polling officials on fire.