While the Maoists have been trying to back off from taking responsibility for the train carnage near Sardiha, circumstantial evidence points to the involvement of the members of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) and CPI-Maoists.
Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh said on Saturday that 10-12 Maoists had assembled at the accident site around midnight. “ We have identified the gang and the village from where they had come. It’s a known Maoist den and raids are continuing,” he said.
There were several other pointers to the Maoist involvement.
* The officer in charge of the Manikpara police station had turned up at the Sardiha station on Thursday afternoon to warn the station staff against possible Maoist strikes. The police had been tipped off about Maoist threats. The police team that got in touch with the Sardiha police station even identified some spots that should be kept under watch. “We had kept a watch on the area suggested by the police team but the actual sabotage took place at another spot, maybe because we had put that spot under watch,” said a railway official. Senior police officials also confirmed specific intelligence inputs about possible Maoist strikes.
Police have got reports about some gangmen having been forced by the Maoists to remove pandrol clips from the railway tracks which caused the derailment of the Jnaneswari Express. The last train to pass the stretch was the Howrah-Hatia Express which passed Khemashuli-Sardiha stations at 12.44 am. There was a gap of merely 30 minutes to remove pandrol clips rom a stretch of about 40-50 metres. It needed experts to do it and the police are also investigating the names of some gangmen who were threatened by Maoists.
* After the goods train rammed into the derailed Jnaneswari Express, a passenger train running between Tatanagar and Kolaghat arrived at Sardiha station. It was about 1.50 am and the train had to be stopped at Sardiha as the goods train had left and by then rammed into the derailed train. A senior station official confirmed to The Sunday Express that the driver of the passenger train reported that he saw a group of about 15 walking past the tracks towards a jungle that leads to Banstala, a Maoist stronghold.
In the Kharagpur-Jhargram stretch of the South Eastern Railway, four station areas are virtually a liberated zone for the Maoists—Khemashuli, Sardiha, Banstala and Jhargram. The Maoists can trigger such attacks easily at any stretch of this section surrounded by thick forest. In the past six months, the group has attempted four such attacks on important trains, including Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani, Steel Express, Howrah-Korapur Express and now Jnaneswari Express.
The Maoists and PCAPA had called an indefinite blockade of road and rail routes to protest “excesses” by joint security forces. During such blockades and bandhs, the Maoists and the PCAPA are known for indulging in such terror activities to enforce their writ.
* The Sunday Express visited some tribal villages in the periphery of the accident site. The commanding officer of battalion of CRPF engaged in anti-Maoists operations in the area as well as state police sources admitted that raids to trace Maoists and for area domination were underway in these areas. Villagers in Jal Jali, Patharghata, Guimara, Akhrasole and some others said that the security forces had been to the villages in the wee hours of Friday and picked up men indiscriminately.