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PC cautious on rebel role

New Delhi, May 28: P. Chidambaram was unusually cautious on allegations that Maoists had triggered the Jnaneswari disaster, merely dubbing the incident a “sabotage” and steering clear of “condemn”, the word he has used most after recent rebel strikes.

The Union home minister also appeared to deny there was a blast which, Mamata Banerjee, claimed had caused the train to derail.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragedy. It appears to be a case of sabotage where a portion of the track was removed. Whether explosives were used is not yet clear,” said Chidambaram.

This was the only operative part of his three-paragraph statement. The rest of it was devoted to condoling the deaths and promising help to the railways and the Bengal government.

Home ministry officials, too, refrained from making statements that could be construed as being conclusive in any way, preferring to wait for the outcome of the Bengal government’s investigation.

“We are saying it is a Naxalite attack on the basis of the Bengal DGP’s (Bhupinder Singh’s) statement. We think it was a sabotage caused by removing fish-plates. We do not have an investigation team there,” a senior ministry official said.

Another official blamed the rebel-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), active in the pocket where the crash occurred today, but was quick to hedge his words by saying he, too, was speaking on the basis of the Bengal DGP’s assessment.

Chidambaram’s circumspection today appeared in line with his “limited mandate” statement— in the aftermath of the rebel attack on a Chhattisgarh bus carrying civilians earlier this month—suggesting state governments were responsible for such incidents.

However, central government sources agreed in private that today’s train disaster was a Maoist attack, indicating that Chidambaram’s cautious response had a political subtext vis-à-vis Mamata and Bengal’s Left Front government.

By contrast, the minister’s reaction after the rebels killed 24 Bengal cops in Shilda, also in West Midnapore, in February conveyed a sense of outrage.

“The attack by the CPI (Maoist) is another outrageous attempt to overawe the established authority in the state. I condemn the attack,” Chidambaram had said then.

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