Gulf Times, October 24, 2010
Patna: Security was tightened across the eastern state of Bihar yesterday after six policemen died in a blast triggered by suspected Maoist rebels, officials said. A hidden mine targeted a police vehicle over a small bridge in Bihar’s Sheohar district.
The blast came two days after a six-phase, month-long electoral process to choose the state legislative assembly began. The second phase will be held today, and security was increased across the state after the explosion, police said. “Combing operations were intensified,” Bihar’s additional director general of police P K Thakur said. “Security has been tightened to give a sense of confidence among people a day ahead of polls following the Maoist strike.”
The attack forced the Election Commission to change the poll timing in Sheohar district. Polling will now be held between 7am and 3pm instead of until 5pm. Bihar police chief Neelmani has urged voters not to panic. “I appeal to the voters to exercise their franchise without any fear…security forces will be available for their security and protection. I will request people to come out of their homes and reach polling stations,” Neelmani said. “There is no need to panic…the police will ensure violence-free polls,” he said. Police officials admit the threat of more Maoist violence looms large over the Bihar assembly polls. The rebels had declared early this month they would intensify attacks to disrupt the elections.
Maoist violence was also reported from several other parts of the country. An Intelligence Branch officer and an NGO worker were reportedly abducted by the Maoists from West Bengal’s Purulia district.
In Orissa, about 30 Maoists early yesterday blew up a warehouse, police said. “The rebels blew up the warehouse at Niliguda village with land mines,” police officer Debashis Mishra said.
Meanwhile, life continued to remain paralysed in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist stronghold of Bastar region yesterday, the second and final day of shutdown by rebels, as buses did not ply and shops were closed. The shutdown had a strong impact in five districts of Bastar – Dantewada, Bijapur, Bastar, Narayanpur and Kanker as buses are off roads.
The rebels called the two-day shutdown to oppose a crackdown launched this month. Even the only passenger train that connects Kirandul town in Dantewada district to Andhra Pradesh has been restricted to Jagdalpur, fearing disturbances by Maoists. Reports coming in from Bastar also said that truckers are not willing to operate as the rebels had targeted them earlier.
Security has been further stepped up in Bastar where police say nearly 25,000sq km of its total 40,000sq km area is intensively mined by Maoists. “Security has always been in top gear in Bastar but surely some more bold steps have been taken to bolster security arrangements during the shutdown period in areas vulnerable to be attacked by the rebels,” Bastar range inspector general of police T J Longkumer said.