16 April 2019
Malkangiri: The work by men in khaki uniform usually goes unnoticed. These brave security personnel put their lives in danger to uphold the Indian Constitution. This is very evident in the case of Malkangiri Police. These daring men had put in months of strategic planning and routine operations to ensure free and fair elections in the Maoist-affected region.
On April 12, a group of 36 polling officers made headlines when they walked 15 kilometers in hilly and remote terrain to bring back EVMs and VVPATs safely to the Collector’s office in Malkangiri after phase-I polls. What is less known about the story is that they were escorted by SOG (Special Operations Group) jawans, a unit of Malkangiri police, who kept the polling officers’ spirits lifted and provided them security cover in the Maoist-infested area.
According to inputs shared by Malkangiri SP Jagmohan Meena, reliable sources had informed that one military platoon of banned CPI (Maoist) had come to Malkangiri from Chhatisgarh, a week before the elections, for Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) during which red rebels undertake violent activities.
On April 9, a BJP MLA was also brutally killed by CPI (Maoist) cadres in Dantewada. Since, Dantewada and Malkangiri are part of same Dandkarnaya region, possibilities of a similar attack heightened in Malkangiri.
Within a week of day of poll, security forces received inputs of Maoists moving around the area of polling station. It is pertinent to mention here that during 2014 elections in Odisha, Maoists had looted away EVMs at 15 polling stations in Malkangiri.
Following this, the areas near polling stations were first sanitized before the polling parties were deployed. Teams of Special Operations Group (SOG) were sent to Mudulipada area and other vulnerable areas 48 hours before the day of poll to ensure that area around polling stations was safe and secure.
For these 48 hours, SOG teams took tactical positions and kept continuous watch over the polling stations. This strategy foiled the plans of Maoists to attack the polling stations or to plant Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) at the polling station.
At around 2 pm on the day of poll, Malkangiri SP received inputs that Maoists are planning to attack the polling parties on the way between Mudulipada (polling station) and Khairput (safe area). As the way between Mudulipada and Khairput is a Kacha road with multiple Ghats, it was more vulnerable to IEDs, informed the SP.
Cordoning off the road was also not possible as that would invite ambush on the security forces. Considering this, Malkangiri SP suggested the six polling parties to walk back. Malkangiri Collector, Odisha CEO and the DGP were briefed about this and everyone agreed. The path was planned meticulously by District Intelligence and Operational Cell (DIOC) of Malkangiri Police by avoiding all ambush points or re-entrants.
SOG teams were briefed to go to the Mudulipada polling stations and escort the six polling teams safely with EVMs, VVPATs and important papers safely back to Khairput. SOG teams were also briefed about assisting the polling personnel in every manner.
Polling teams took the suggestion by SOG teams positively and after packing everything, they started walking back. They were provided with all kind of support like light snacks, water, tarpaulin sheets etc on the way by SOG teams. Location of the team was continuously monitored by DIOC and a team was kept ready at headquarters in case of any emergency.
SOG teams which were in Jungle for about 72 hours did not take rest and provided security to the polling personnel, EVMs and VVPATs. On morning of April 12, democracy won as the teams reached safely and handed over the sealed votes of people.
DIG SWR added, "It was one of its kind operation. Forces face such situations very rarely and coming out successfully is a great morale booster for whole SOG.”
ADG (Operations) R P Koche concluded, "We have decided to felicitate the SOG teams involved in the operation.”