New Delhi: Naxals blew up a bridge Saturday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand as the first phase of the local elections is underway in its 13 constituencies, police said.
However, no one was killed or injured in the blast.
The bridge was blown up in Bishnupur of Gumla district, about 120 km west of Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand.
“This morning Naxals blasted a bridge in Bishnupur here,” a police official posted at Gumla said. “There are no reports of anyone being killed or wounded in the incident.”
Authorities have rushed contingents of police and paramilitary to the spot to carry out searches for the people responsible for the blast.
Officials said the blast has not affected the ongoing voting in the area.
According to officials most of the constituencies spread over six districts — Chatra, Palamu, Gumla, Garhwa, Latehar and Lohardagga, where polling is being held are in Naxal dominated areas.
Naxalites are also known as “Maoists.” Naxals, who have called for a boycott in the ongoing elections, are active in more than a third of India’s 600-odd districts across central and eastern India.
India’s former prime minister Manmohan Singh once termed the Naxalite movement as India’s “greatest internal security challenge.”
New Delhi has deployed several companies of its paramilitary forces to take on Naxals in their strongholds.
Officials said 4,892 polling stations have been set up for the first phase, out of which 1,262 would have webcasting facilities. In super sensitive category, 1,790 voting booths have been placed and 1,202 voting booths have been marked as sensitive.
As per officials, 67 constituencies in Jharkhand have been declared “very extremely” to “extremely” affected by Naxal movement.
According to state-run broadcaster All India Radio (AIR), four helicopters have been pressed into service for air patrolling, while as one has been stationed at Ranchi airport for any emergency.
As per India’s election commission, voting in Jharkhand’s 81 constituencies would be completed in five phases until Dec. 20 and counting of votes is scheduled on December 23.
The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which is seeking a second term under the leadership of incumbent Chief Minister Raghubar Das, is facing a tough challenge from the opposition alliance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Congress party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).