Patna: Suspected communist rebels freed nearly 300 train passengers unharmed after keeping them hostage for almost five hours at a railway station in eastern India on Wednesday, a day before the second phase of the general election that the guerrillas have vowed to disrupt.
Hostage drama: The train that was hijacked by Maoists arrives at the Daltonganj station. It was held captive for almost five hours. Rajesh Kumar Sen/Reuters
After releasing the passengers, the nearly 250 suspected rebels who stopped the train left without a confrontation with security forces, said senior police official Hemant Toppo.
The hijacking—which took place in a Maoist rebel stronghold in Jharkhand—was one of a series of attacks that included an explosion at another railway station, a blast at a government office, and the slaying of a truck driver in Bihar.
The rebels have called on the public to boycott the elections and a pamphlet left at the attacked government office described the vote as “a fake exercise”.
“Strengthen revolutionary forces. You will pay with your lives if you participate in these elections,” it read.
The first phase of the voting last week saw more than three dozen attacks by Maoist fighters in rural areas across eastern and central India. The violence left at least 17 people dead—including police, soldiers, polling officials and civilians—and three election officials were kidnapped.
The Naxalites generally do not speak to the media and instead communicate via pamphlets or statements sent to newspaper offices.
Authorities have deployed tens of thousands of security forces across the country to prevent violence during the elections.
No casualties were reported in the explosion at a second railway station in Jharkhand, said state official S.P. Pradhan, or at the government office in Aurangabad in Bihar, said Neelmani, a local police official who uses only one name.
The suspected rebels set ablaze at least six trucks near Gaya, a town in Bihar, and shot and killed one driver who tried to escape, said Neelmani.