Anticipating Naxal violence in the second phase of polling, the Election Commission and the home ministry dispatched additional security forces and helicopters to Bihar and Jharkhand, from where attacks were reported on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Enforcing their 24-hour bandh call in the states, Naxals ‘hijacked’ a train in Latehar district, blew up the main building of the Untari Road railway station in Palamu, burnt down five bauxite-loaded trucks in Garhwa, and razed a village school and a health centre in Chatra district of Jharkhand.
In Delhi, home secretary Madhukar Gupta said after Wednesday’s attacks, the home ministry decided to provide better helicopters to the two states for aerial surveillance and to launch counter-attacks against Naxals.
Two helicopters have been provided to Bihar and three to Jharkhand.
“As a large number of the polling booths are located in Naxal-affected areas, aerial surveillance is required,” said R.S. Bhatti, IG (Muzaffarpur zone).
Deputy election commissioner J.P. Prakash said election staff would get full security cover and polling in the Naxal-affected constituencies would end at 3 pm so that they can return to their base stations before dark. In all, more than 1.7 lakh security personnel have been deployed for election duty in the two Naxal-affected states.
At the Hehegara station in Latehar, Naxals hijacked the Barkakana-Dihari-Mugalsarai passenger train around 7.30 am on Wednesday. Supported by villagers, plain clothes Naxals took the engine driver hostage for over four hours. The Naxals raised anti-police and anti-government slogans. They did not harm any of the about 500 passengers. The train began it onward journey at 11.40 am after the Maoists released the driver.
In the Untari Road incident, more than 100 armed Naxals reached the railway station around 11.15 pm on Tuesday and blew up its main building by triggering two blasts. The first explosion was reported five minutes before the Ranchi-New Delhi Rajdhani Express was due to cross the station. The train was delayed by an hour because of the blasts.
In Bihar, Naxals blew up a government building at Dev block headquarters under Aurangabad district and set 10 trucks on fire on the national highway passing through Gaya district. They shot dead a truck driver who tried to flee.
The Naxals had called a 24-hour bandh from Tuesday midnight to protest the recent killing of five youngsters at Barhania village in Latehar by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. The CRPF said the youths were Naxalites and died in an encounter. But villagers said they were innocent and were killed after being picked up from the village in full public view.
Backed by the Maoists, the villagers have been demanding the arrest of the CRPF jawans behind the killings and a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the family of each of the deceased.
(With HTC inputs from Patna, Ranchi, Daltonganj and Garhwa)