//Maoist rebels counter Chhattisgarh's anniversary celebrations

Maoist rebels counter Chhattisgarh's anniversary celebrations

Thu Nov 2, 2006

RAIPUR, India (Reuters) – Buses and trucks have stayed off the roads in parts of Chhattisgarh after Maoist rebels called a week-long strike to counter official celebrations to mark the anniversary of the founding of the state.

The state government is holding a week of public functions throughout Chhattisgarh to mark its creation from Madhya Pradesh on Nov. 1, 2000.

But Maoists have countered with banners and posters throughout the 40,000 square km Bastar region, a rebel stronghold at the southern tip of the state, to demand a boycott of the celebrations.

The rebels are demanding the poor and tribal-dominated region of Bastar be "liberated" as a separate state.

A home ministry official said rebels have dug up many roads or blocked them with trees in the interior of Bastar, and trucks, buses and taxis were staying off the roads.

Rebels have also placed landmines near police and paramilitary positions, he said.

Maoists warned that anyone attending government celebrations would be punished in their "jan adalat" public courts.

Chhattisgarh is among the worst hit states by the Maoist insurgency in India.

Officials say 374 people including 298 civilians were killed in Maoist-related violence in the first nine months of the year but human rights groups say this is an underestimate.