Maoists set fire to Bengal railway station


Kolkata : Maoists in West Bengal set a railway station in Purulia district on fire early Wednesday as the economic blockade called by the rebels entered its second day.

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About 50 Maoist guerrillas set ablaze the station master's room at Biramdih railway station at around 1.30 a.m. and destroyed the signalling system, police said. Biramdih is about 285 km from Kolkata on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border.

"They (rebels) came and scared us away. We watched from a distance as they set the station on fire and fired shots in the air," said Debasis Roy, a railway employee.

The Maoists shouted slogans and left behind leaflets and posters. Three bombs were also found on the track, a police official said. At one place the Maoists put up a poster warning people not to touch the tracks since bombs were planted on them.

The signalling system of the station was damaged, said a railway official.

"We have started a combing operation in the area," said Jogesh Chattopadhayay, inspector general (headquarters) in Kolkata. Many policemen – including commandos – have been sent to the area.

The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has called for an economic blockade Tuesday and Wednesday in six states – West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh – to protest "exploitation of natural resources by private and public firms". The rebels say the resources belong exclusively to the locals in the area.

They are also opposed to the formation of special economic zones (SEZs).

Shopkeepers downed shutters and vehicles kept off the roads in some areas in the southern districts of Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura. However, most of West Bengal remained unaffected by the blockade.