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Maoists torch lorries, phone tower in India strike

A day long strike by Maoists in eastern India shut down factories and shops in the region's rural belt.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2009 13:35 IST

A day long strike by Maoists in eastern India shut down factories and shops in the region's rural belt on Thursday, police said, adding the rebels also set fire to lorries and destroyed a mobile phone tower.

The strike in the three states of Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa saw work at mines affected and highways blocked. The strike was called to protest against rising prices and what the rebels said were police atrocities against villagers.

In Bihar, strikers distributed fliers criticising police, stopped lorries in Rohtas district and set fire to about a dozen of them before disappearing in dense jungles, police said.

"Four trucks were laden with cement manufactured in a local factory, while the rest were empty," said Vikas Vaibhav, a senior police officer. "We are conducting raids to nab the fleeing Maoists."

In the state's Gaya district, the rebels blew up a mobile phone tower, forcing authorities to stop buses and taxis from going to villages and towns where the rebels were strong, due to fear of communications problems in case of trouble. Additional police were dispatched there.

Buses and trucks were not plying in rural areas of mineral rich Jharkhand state either, affecting shipment of coal and bauxite from mines located in rebel strongholds, police said.

In neighbouring West Bengal, Maoist rebels shut down shops and businesses in three districts.

"We have a large police deployment," Raj Kanojia, a senior police officer told Reuters in Kolkata, the capital of communist ruled West Bengal state.

The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of poor peasants and landless labourers, routinely calling strikes, attacking government property and targeting local politicians.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the rebels the biggest challenge to the country's internal security.

First Published: Jan 22, 2009 13:32 IST