Raipur/Mumbai, May 9: Maoists have picked out a mining unit of Hindalco, India’s largest aluminium and copper producer, for the biggest guerrilla attack on a corporate facility in the country.
Around 200 Maoists, some of them armed with AK-47 rifles, stormed and shut down operations of the aluminium mining unit of Hindalco at Chhattisgarh’s Saridih, around 490 km from the capital Raipur, on Saturday evening.
The extremists razed several buildings in the complex, using Hindalco’s own bulldozers in what is suspected to be a revenge attack.
Saridih falls in Balrampur, an area worst affected by Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh.
Balrampur superintendent of police Sitaram Kaluri said security forces taking part in raids on Maoist hideouts had stayed in the rest house and residential premises of the company while patrolling.
The officer said this could have misled the Naxalites into believing the company was assisting the police in operations against the extremists. None of the company’s official at Saridih was willing to comment.
However, in Mumbai, where Hindalco has its corporate headquarters, a spokesperson said police protection in the area was withdrawn a week ago.
'They (the Maoists) used bulldozers to demolish buildings, including the laboratory, staff quarters, office buildings and a guesthouse,' the spokesperson said.
Though mining at Saridih has come to a standstill, Hindalco, controlled by Kumar Mangalam Birla, said its national operations would not be affected as the company has other captive mines across the country.
Isolated attacks against big companies have been reported from militancy-affected areas in Andhra Pradesh and the Northeast. But the attack on the Hindalco establishment surpasses the earlier instances in its scale and style and resembles raids familiar to rebel bastions like Nepal.
Rarely have so many guerrillas ' around 200 ' launched a single operation against a company. The tried-and-tested formula is remote-controlled explosions or targeted attacks on individuals. Last year, suspected Naxalites attacked a Coca-Cola unit in Andhra by planting explosives ' one of which went off, causing minor damage.
But the raid on the Saridih mining unit was more audacious and direct. The Balrampur superintendent of police said the Maoists came in trucks and other vehicles and cordoned off the area before launching the assault.
They first took senior officials, including geologist D.K. Sinha and chemical engineer R.K. Verma, hostage. They then took the officers to the mines, overpowered four security guards and seized the bulldozers.
The rebels first razed the guesthouse, then seven residential blocks and office premises. They also set fire to several documents.
The attackers wanted to damage a hospital and a temple, but many villagers who had gathered there dissuaded them. The officials were also let off unharmed on the request of the villagers, a police officer said.
The Maoists took away two trucks and a jeep after loading them with computers, almirahs, and other office furniture. Unofficial estimates put the damage to property at Rs 1 crore.