A jawan watches as rail employees repair tracks in Bokaro after the blast on Sunday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Nov. 29: Maoists killed three villagers, blew up five school buildings and damaged railway tracks in several districts in Jharkhand on the first day of their 48-hour bandh called in the middle of Assembly elections.
The first target of the bandh — called to press for a fair trial of CPI (Maoist) South Chhotanagpur zonal committee leader Ashok Mahto — were five village schools at Hariharganj and Pipra in Palamau district, some 240km from state capital Ranchi.
Palamau superintendent of police Jatin Narwal said the rebels used dynamite to raze the buildings and attacked much before the bandh came into effect.
Mahto was arrested on October 23.
In Bokaro, the Howrah- Jabalpur Shaktipunj Express had a close shave as a squad of rebels blew up tracks between Jogeshwar Vihar and Dania stations minutes after the train passed at 10.45pm.
Bokaro police chief Saket Kumar Singh said the blast damaged a metre of the tracks and disrupted traffic for over 12 hours. Traffic resumed only at 11am today.
A second attack targeting trains was at Mahabuang village near Bono station, 50km from Ranchi, in Simdega district.
Maoists triggered twin blasts, damaging tracks and a portion of the stationmasters office at 1.40am. Simdega superintendent of police Abhisekh Kumar said a two-metre crack in the tracks delayed the Puri-Hatia Tapaswini Express, scheduled to cross Bono around 6am, by three hours. Trains started running again only at 9am, he said.
In East Singhbhum, a bomb meant to target security forces killed three villagers and injured seven at Sesangdih, 55km from Jamshedpur, this morning.
Judhistir Mahto, one of the victims admitted at Tata Main Hospital, said the improvised explosive device (IED) went off when CRPF jawans asked them to remove a tree that was blocking the road. We were playing football when they asked for our help. As we lifted the tree, there was a loud bang, Mahto said.
East Singhbhum police chief Naveen Kumar Singh confirmed the use of an IED and said two villagers died on the spot and the third on his way to hospital. Police and paramilitary personnel had intensified patrolling in the area, he added.
Senior BJP leader and Jamshedpur MP Arjun Munda said the police were not forthcoming in providing relief to the injured villagers.
The second phase of elections is on December 2.