India: Maoists torch 35 trucks in Maharashtra, traders lose crores

After lying low for a while, Maoists struck again on Friday, torching 30-35 trucks at Surjagarh, in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. No casualties were reported at the time of going to press though some of the truckers were injured. Losses to transporters ran into a few crore rupees.

Though security forces claimed not more than 35 trucks were damaged, transporters said the number was around 80. Senior cops said that some security personnel managed to visit the arson site, but no intensive efforts were made for fear that the incident might be a Maoist trap to lure them into a minefield.

Santosh Agrawal, a contractor, claimed 11 of his trucks were torched. “Another 11and 58 trucks belonging to two other contractors, too, were damaged,” he said.

The trucks transport iron ore from the mines. The Maoists have been opposing mining activities in Surjagarh since the project’s inception. Three representatives of Lloyds Metals and Energy Ltd, executing the project, have been shot dead at the site in the past.

Around 350 locals are engaged in mining work, but the Maoists claim the mining project will drain the area of its natural resources and pave the way for massive displacement. The Maoists have also called a bandh in the district from December 25 to January 3 to highlight several issues, including their opposition to mining. While police claimed around 20-25 armed Maoists, along with some supporters, had stormed the site where the trucks had been, local sources said they may have numbered about 200.

After urging the truckers to abandon their vehicles, the Maoists thrashed some of them, triggering rumours that many had died. Sources also said three supervisors of Lloyds Metals, which owns the mining lease at Surjagarh, were left unharmed. State director general of police Satish Mathur said detailed reports of the incident were awaited. “We are undertaking required strategic precautions,” he said.

Gadchiroli superintendent of police Abhinav Deshmukh said the Maoists had compelled the labourers to join the action. “Our forces have already visited the site but the formalities will be completed in daylight,” he said. “Some of the truckers have sustained injuries in the incident as the Naxalites thrashed them with sticks and lathis,” Deshmukh said.

The security forces, however, have not yet confirmed which local Maoist outfit carried out the attack. A section of the security forces presumes the Maoists might have approached the site from the northern and north-eastern sides after sneaking into Maharashtra from Narayanpur district of Chhattishgarh. The state government has as yet opened a few police posts in Etapalli taluka to surround the mining site, but the vulnerable north and north-eastern sides remain mostly unguarded.

Source :

C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.