Voters standing in a queue outside a polling station in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur constituency waited patiently for their turn and when a woman police constable walked out after exercising her franchise, they didn’t take note as there was no apparent reason to do so.
For constable Sumitra Sahu, 34, this was the first occasion in her life, which took a turn for the better in December 2018, to participate in the poll process as a voter.
Before December five years ago, Ms Sahu donned brownish-green fatigue and carried a gun as an active commander of the Aamdai Area Committee of Maoists in Narayanpur.
On Tuesday, voting was held in 20 constituencies during the first phase of the state assembly polls amid Naxalite violence, officials said.
“I joined the police force in January 2019. I am happy that for the first time, I have exercised my franchise on Tuesday,” she told PTI.
During elections- dubbed the festival of democracy-Naxalites in LWE-affected areas often threaten people against participating in the voting process but thanks to the efforts taken by the police and poll officials, voting can be held. This was evident on Tuesday when a provisional turnout of around 71 per cent was recorded in the first phase of the state assembly elections for 20 constituencies.
A resident of Kadenar village in Narayanpur district, Ms Sahu joined Naxalism in 2004 as a member of Chetna Natya Mandli- a cultural wing of outlawed CPI (Maoists). She was recruited by then East Bastar Division secretary Urmila, a dreaded Maoist leader.
During elections, including parliamentary, assembly and panchayat she was also tasked to spread propaganda of the boycott call given by Naxalites, Ms Sahu said.
After her 6-7 colleagues were killed in encounters with police and a police camp set up in her village Kadenar, she quit Naxalism in December 2018 and joined the police force in 2019. She initially served as a ‘gopniya sainik (secret trooper) and was later elevated as a constable, Ms Sahu added.
On Tuesday, residents of 126 villages in the Bastar division rejoiced as polling stations were set up for the first time in their villages since Independence in seven Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected districts, a statement issued by the poll authority said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)