Blasting train tracks and mobile phone towers and firing in the air to intimidate, Maoist guerrillas Tuesday unleashed a wave of violence in several places in Jharkhand and Bihar as well as Gadchiroli in Maharashtra where assembly elections were underway.
The violence by Left extremists continued unabated Tuesday, day two of their strike in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal to protest the Indian government’s decision to step up operations against the rebels. Train traffic was disrupted and thousands of passengers inconvenienced.
While Chhattisgarh and West Bengal were peaceful, the strike in Bihar impacted rural areas but left the cities unaffected. Jharkhand was badly hit with rail and bus services disrupted, as well as the movement of coal and other mining activities, the backbone of the state’s economy.
In Bihar, the outlawed Communist Party of India—Maoist (CPI—Maoist) attacked a railway station, set ablaze a cabin room, blasted a rail track, a government office and a mobile phone tower across the state.
Heavily armed guerrillas, officials said, attacked the Banshipur railway station in Lakhisarai, about 150 km from Patna, ransacked its office and set it ablaze late Monday. They also held about half—a dozen railway officials, including the station master, hostage for over an hour.
“Maoists damaged the control panel and burnt official documents and tickets,” said an official of Banshipur station on the Patna—Kiul section of Southeast—Central Railway.
They also blew up a rail track in Jamui district and the Sangrampur block development office in Munger district Monday night.
Earlier, Maoists had blown up a mobile phone tower in Aurangabad district and dug up a village road, an official said.
The modus operandi in neighbouring Jharkhand was similar. The day began with a government run school in Nawadih in Chatra district being blown up.
The night before, guerrillas blasted rail tracks between the Dania and the Jogeshwar railway stations under Dhanbad railway division. Train services in the area came to a standstill with 13 trains affected.
They also blasted three mobile phone towers in Toto village of Gumla district and one tower in Chando village of Palamau district.
Shortly before polling started in Maharashtra, gunshots were heard in Gadchiroli, where a group of 150 rebels had killed 17 policemen last week.
“At around 6.30 a.m., a few rounds of gunfire were heard in Kasanpur village of Aheri constituency,” Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police S. Jayakumar told IANS.
The shots came from far and there were no casualties of any kind, he added.
But the gunfire struck fear, and security was further tightened.
“I would like to assure that the situation is fully under control and there is no cause for worry,” Jayakumar said. Polling started on schedule at 7 a.m.
On Monday, Director General of Police (Anti—Corruption Bureau) A.N. Roy had warned that they had received intelligence reports indicating that Maoists had infiltrated into Maharashtra from neighbouring states with an intention to foment trouble during Tuesday’s elections.