India: Naxalite rebels in new attacks

India’s Maoist Naxalite rebels have been very busy lately, but the wave of attacks is going virtually unreported outside India. From PTI via The Hindu, March 14:

Naxalites this morning released the passenger train that they had seized last evening in a thick forest area in Jharkhand, without causing any harm to the passengers.

The train with about 60 people onboard arrived at Latehar station at around 9:30 am and all passengers were safe, Latehar Superintendent of Police Subodh Prasad, said.

The naxalites had stopped the train on its way from Barkakhana in Jharkhand to Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh in the dense forests of Jharkhand near Heyagarha, about 100 km from Latehar around 7:30 pm last evening, cut off the communication system and snatched the walkie-talkie from the guard.

There were about 100 passengers on the train and now train services were functioning normally, Dhanbad Divisional Railways Manager Ajay Kumar Shukla, told PTI.

The train left the spot near Heyagarha station and reached Kumundih at around 8 am before heading towards Latehar, Prasad said.

DIG (Palamu Range) Ram Laxman Prasad, said some of the passengers had left the spot on their own after day break, and the patrolling police came to know from them that all passengers were safe.

One of the passengers said a couple of youths removed the vacuum between bogies, causing the train to screech to a halt and enabling the extremists to stop the train for nearly twelve hours.

“We waited patiently the whole night. They (Naxalites) did not harm us,” another passenger told the waiting newsmen at Latehar station.

Also from PTI via The Hindu, March 14:

Twentyfive jawans [enlisted men] of the patrolling party of the Special Task Force (STF) had a miraculous escape when a group of naxalites triggered a powerful landmine blast and later fired at them, near Pendhari forest in Gadchiroli district early today, police said.

The incident took place when policemen, numbering 13 and 12 were travelling in two separate anti-landmine vehicles, after completing an anti-naxal operation, police said.

The landmine blasts triggered by the naxals, tossed one of the two vehicles in the air at an height of 20 to 25 feet, police said adding, a group of about 50 to 60 naxalites opened fire on the STF personnel. However, no one was injured in the firing.

The commandoes in the vehicle thrown in the air, suffered minor injuries, as the vehicle came down, sources said.

Impact of the blast was so severe that it created a five to six feet deep crater at the blast spot.

Combing operations have been launched, with senior police officials monitoring the situation, sources added.

The exchange of fire continued till the naxals fled into the jungles, police said.

Additional reinforcements have been rushed to the spot. While injured policemen were admitted to a hospital in Gadchiroli, sources added.

From UNI via, March 15:

Proscribed CPI (Maoist) extremists today blew up an Adivasi students hostel at Palma village under Dundi police station of the district, police said. However, no one was injured in the explosion.

The hostel, which was under the state Welfare department, was undergoing repairing works and the students had vacated the hostel earlier. Police have launched a massive combing operation to apprehend the extremists.

Adivasis are India’s tribal peoples—precisely those the Naxalites claim to represent. This raises the question of to what degree the regional Naxalite armies have the loyalty of the tibal peoples, or are merely demanding loyalty at gunpoint. Press accounts are also unclear on the degree of centralization within the Naxalite movement, and the regional armies’ loyalty to the Communist Party of India-Maoist.

See also “Primer: Who Are the Naxalites?” form, Oct. 2, 2003

See our last posts on India and its Maoist insurgency.