Page last updated at 05:01 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 06:01 UK

Violence in India's Maoist strike

Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh
Maoists have a presence in more than 200 districts of India

Maoist rebels have blown up culverts and cut electricity to railways on the first day of a strike that they have called in parts of India.

Police in eastern Jharkhand state, where the two-day strike is most pronounced, say suspected rebels also killed two people in the Pakor area.

Two managers of a coal mine were gunned down during their morning walk but no-one has claimed responsibility.

India says that Maoist insurgents pose its biggest security threat.

They operate in many states and say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless.

The rebels have called for a two-day strike in five affected states of Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in protest against "police atrocities".

No casualties

Jharkhand appeared to be the most affected state with public transport suspended and deserted highways in affected areas, our correspondent Salman Ravi says.

Also markets are shut and roads are deserted in affected areas such as Latehar and Palamau.

No casualties have been reported in small explosions triggered off by the rebels, the police said.

Troops hunting for Maoist rebels in India
A massive security operation against the rebels will be launched soon

The strike comes days ahead of a planned offensive by the government against the rebels, whom it describes as the "greatest internal threat" to India.

Maoists have a presence in more than 223 of India's 600-odd districts across 20 states, according to the government.

There have been more than 1,400 cases related to violence by Maoists between January and August, according to official records. Nearly 600 civilians have died over that period.

The insurgents wield most influence in areas which are mostly poor and dominated by tribes people.

They are also areas widely seen as being rich in mineral wealth which the Maoists say is being handed over to corporate firms while the poor remain deprived.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Sunday that the rise in the activities of rebels "obliges us to look at what causes this sense of alienation among certain sections of the community, especially the tribal community".

"It could be indicative of the deficiencies in the pace of development. We are looking at that aspect, but groups of individuals have no right to take law and order into their own hands," he said.

Last week, at least 17 policemen were killed in a battle with Maoist insurgents in the western state of Maharashtra.

Mr Singh told police chiefs last month that a campaign against the rebels had failed to produce results.

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