Day after blast, terror stalks Chhattisgarh miners

Hundreds of men lining up for work on a Monday morning... a day after a blast killed four policemen, it appeared to be business as usual in this iron ore mining site.

Kirandul (Chhattisgarh): Hundreds of men lining up for work on a Monday morning... a day after a blast killed four policemen, it appeared to be business as usual in this iron ore mining site. But it was a deceptive calm, with shaken miners asking their families to stay indoors while they went to work in this Maoist stronghold.

"Terror reigns. Yesterday`s deadly blast has shaken up hundreds of workers who are involved here in iron ore mining at Bailadila hills," said Rajendra Singh, 42, a worker at Deposit no 14 owned by NMDC Ltd, India`s largest iron ore producer in public sector.

On Sunday, Maoists blew up a Bolero vehicle at Kirandul, killing four police personnel, including DN Nagvanshi, the man in-charge of the Kirandul police station. The blast took place on a road just outside the sprawling Kirandul complex of the Bailadila mine.

NMDC has several mines at Bailadila hills in Dantewada district, some 420 km south from state capital Raipur from where the company produced about 80 percent of its 25.16 million tonnes iron ore in fiscal 2010-11.

"Workers at both the mining complexes - Kirandul and Bacheli - in Bailadila are feeling terrorised since Sunday`s blast. Miners have asked family members to remain indoors because Maoists have distributed pamphlets threatening more blasts," Rajesh Sinha, 37, a mechanical engineer who takes care of NMDC`s conveyor belt at Kirandul, said.

"If the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) and local police in-charge are not safe, you can imagine the mental status of the hundreds of workers here," he added.

The area has witnessed terror earlier as well. In February 2006, armed rebels stormed into an NMDC depot at Kirandul and carried away massive stock of explosives after killing eight CISF men.

Sunday`s attack, barely four kilometres from the Kirandul police station, is seen by some as a reply to President Pratibha Patil`s call to Maoists Friday to shun violence and join the mainstream.

Patil had said in her address to a specially-convened session of the Chhattisgarh Assembly: "I call upon Maoists ... to give up violence and have dialogue for peace to ensure development for their tribal people."

In a statement sent Sunday night to media outlets at its stronghold Bastar that includes Dantewada district, the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) sought withdrawal of paramilitary troopers from their strongholds in Chhattisgarh and also the scrapping of an army training camp at Abujhmad forest in Bastar.

The group, with an estimated 10,000 fighters and access to rocket launchers and mortars, has called for a ‘protest week’ in several states from July 4 against the army`s entry into their terrain.

Over 500 Army personnel descended for the first time in the heart of Bastar region between May 30-June 2. The deployment, according to security experts, was to "psychologically hit the rebels".

The Army, however, explained that they have stepped into the violence-hit territory only "for jungle warfare training, and not for anti-Maoist operations".

Nearly 2,200 police personnel and civilians have been killed in Chhattisgarh in incidents related to Maoist violence since November 2000, when the state was formed.

About 90 percent of the casualties were reported from Bastar, which has about 20 percent of the country`s iron ore deposits.


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