RAIPUR, India — Indian Maoist rebels on Thursday killed five people including a policeman by detonating a landmine under a bus in a restive central state that goes to the polls this month, police said.
It was the second attack in Chhattisgarh inside 10 days and came just a day ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state where he will be campaigning for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The mineral-rich state goes to the polls on Monday with a second round on November 20, the election staggered because of the security situation.
The attack occurred in Dantewada district, a Maoist stronghold where the guerillas killed two policemen and a journalist on Oct. 30.
The Maoist rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of landless laborers and poor farmers, have urged voters to boycott the polls.
In the latest incident, police said the victims were returning from picking vegetables and other rations for paramilitary forces deployed in the area.
“The bus was coming down a hill when it hit a landmine,” police superintendent D. Raghushankar said.
“Four civilians and one CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) personnel have lost their lives.”
The state has been governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP for 15 years, and Chief Minister Raman Singh who is seeking a fourth term has blamed the rebels for impeding development projects in the state.
The Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 states across India but are most active in remote parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, where much of the population remains mired in poverty and lacks access to critical services.
The decades-old insurgency is believed to have cost tens of thousands of lives. Critics say the government’s attempts to end the revolt through a no-holds-barred military offensive are doomed to fail.
Maoists are known to step up attacks in the lead up to elections, targeting railway lines and stalling mining operations.
In early October, the left-wing insurgents blew up a military vehicle in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, killing four soldiers.