Maoists on Friday torched 69 trucks and three JCBs at Surjagad Lloyd Metal’s iron mine, barely five-km from Hedri police post in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. This is the biggest arsonist attack in Maoist insurgency-hit areas and raises question marks over claims of huge setback to the Left wing extremists in the district.
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Sources said that hundreds of Maoists descended upon the area around noon. They drove out around 300 labourers loading iron ore before setting the vehicles afire.
Inspector General of Police (Gadchiroli range) Shivaji Bodkhe insisted that the attack was not a reflection on policing. “Though we have the Hedri police post 5 km away, on the other side is Abujmad, where about 40 sq km area has no police presence and hence Maoists find it not so difficult.” He added that the number of attackers would hardly have been 10 to 15. “They drove the labourers away and then had no hurdle and must have gone on setting the vehicles afire one after the other.’’
Sources said that Maoists generally recce an area before targeting it, making sure that there is no police movement. They then split into five-member groups for completing a task in the shortest possible time. “In Surjagad, they must have finished the task within 30 minutes, which means there must have been Maoists and militia members by hundreds on the spot,” said a source.
The work at Surjagad mine had started last year after prolonged opposition from Maoists. Some local tribal activists had been opposing the mining too. About 2,000 tonne iron ore was being mined daily of late.
The attack has called into question the future of the first mine in the region, where Thapar Group paper mill at Ashti is the only other industrial venture.
The police and the state government have been claiming big successes in anti-Maoist operations in the district, especially after opening up of new police posts in no-go areas.
Director General of Police Satish Mathur promised “a suitable reply”. Unconfirmed reports said that Superintendent of Police Abhinav Deshmukh had issued directives to various posts saying policemen, except the Special C-60 commando units, should not move out without his prior sanction. Deshmukh was unavailable for comments.