Hyderabad, Nov. 20: People’s War Group rebels blasted a railway station in another revenge strike early today, but not before making sure there was no repeat of Monday night’s blunder that resulted in the death of civilians.
The mistake cost the lives of 14 tribals as the Naxalites, out to avenge the encounter killing of four comrades on Sunday, blew up a bus mistaking the passengers for policemen. The dead included six women and two children.
Today, around 25 extremists surrounded the Tummaalacheruvu railway station on the Nadikudi-Hyderabad sector of South-Central Railway. After directing the railway staff and passengers in the station to vacate the premises, they placed dynamites and blasted the signalling system and other equipment.
The explosion disrupted traffic till afternoon and all major trains were re-routed through the Kazipet sector. “We have restored the route but the completely damaged signal system will be put back to work in a couple of days,” said a senior railway official.
The second attack came at a time when the Andhra Pradesh administration is still reeling under the impact of Monday night’s strike in the Eturnagaram area of Warangal district. Chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who went to Eturnagaram and consoled the survivors and families of the victims, was advised against visiting the blast spot as it is close to Chhattisgarh, which has become a haven for extremist groups.
Naidu returned by train as dusk had set in and his helicopter could not take off.
Union minister of state for home C. Vidyasagar Rao, who was sent by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, also could not reach the blast site. Rao reached state capital Hyderabad last night, but deferred his visit to Warangal. This morning, police officials advised him to stay away from Eturnagaram and the site of the attack. “Hence I visited the house of the bus driver and consoled them,” Rao said.
Nalini Prabhat, police superintendent of Warangal, said he did not want to risk the lives of VIPs as all the forest roads appeared to be mined by the PWG. Although the state police had begun defusing the landmines in all the interior roads between Narasampeta and Eturnagaram, the rebels seem to have laid more mines on the roads bordering Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The police today confirmed that the PWG attack was aimed at the special forces and not the passengers. As part of a strategy, the police party that reached Eturnagaram had boarded another bus on the return journey to escape retaliation.
The PWG watchers, who had earlier noted down the number of the bus that brought the police team, passed on the message to their waiting comrades, unaware that the bus was carrying tribals this time.
The PWG central committee is yet to react to the incident that has put a black mark on the organisation. But human rights activists have criticised the police for their strategy of using civilians as buffers to combat the Naxalites.
“The state repression and the extremist violence have succeeded in spreading terror and increasing death toll in the countryside,” said K. Balgopal, a civil liberty activist.