Sib Kumar Das

Road and mobile communication network targeted ahead of bandh

BERHAMPUR: Naxalites created havoc in parts of south Orissa while enforcing their bandh on Monday.

Maoists targeted the road and mobile communication network ahead of their bandh call to create panic in the minds of the general public. The extremists torched four buses of the Orissa State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC) at Raipanka in Gajapati district on Sunday night. They damaged towers of mobile communication network at Raipanka, Balimela in Malkangiri district and Mathapada in Koraput district. The naxals also blasted a forest beat house and an inspection bunglow of the Forest Department at Balimela.

Maoists had given the bandh call to protest against alleged police excesses and recent deaths in police firing in Gajapati and Koraput districts.

Buses torched

The effect of the bandh call was most evident in Gajapati district, which had not seen any major Maoist violence in recent past. Miscreants cut down trees to block the Berhampur-Rayagada road near Birikote and Raipanka on Sunday night to block the passage of passenger vehicles and trucks. At around midnight, a group of 40 armed Maoists reached the spot and forced the passengers of four OSRTC buses stranded at the spot to get out of the buses. Then they torched the buses using diesel that they took out from a stranded truck. The Maoists blasted the mobile communication tower of Reliance Telecom at Raipanka, cutting off many a stranded passenger from the outside world. The four OSRTC buses which were burnt down were travelling between Berhampur-Jeypore, Cuttack-Jeypore, Berhampur-Bhawanipatna and Nayagarh-Jeypore.

Over 500 passengers, including 200 from the burnt down buses, were stranded at the spot till afternoon. They included large number of women and children. Till 2 p.m. no police or administrative officials had reached the spot. When contacted, Gajapati Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Arora said they had sent dry food, drinking water and a doctor to Raipanka by four ambulances. Efforts were being made to transport the stranded passengers to Adaba and Gumuda on two-wheelers. Police were taking time to reach the spot as they were apprehensive of Maoists on the path. Trees were cut down in several other places of Gajapati district to block the traffic. Most traffic remained off the road in the district. The road connecting Adaba and Brahmanigaon in Kandhamal district was also blocked at several places by fallen trees.

According to the Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Malkangiri, Anup Sahu a group of armed Maoists blew up a mobile tower of the BSNL at Baliemela on Sunday night.

Then the naxals used explosives to blast a forest beat house and inspection bungalow at Orkel square near Balimela. Trees were cut down near Govindpalli to snap road communication of Malkangiri with Koraput district. Vehicles remained off the road in Malkangiri district. In Koraput district the naxals blasted the mobile communication tower at Mathapada near Ramgiri.