Rescue work in progress last Friday after the Jnaneswari Express was derailed. (Amit Datta)
Rajabandh (West Midnapore), June 3: Maoists have picked up Bapi Mahato, who allegedly led the sabotage that led to the Jnaneswari Express tragedy, and taken him to an undisclosed location to seek an explanation why he and his accomplices targeted a passenger train.
Sources in the village defence squad at Rajabandh, of which Bapi is a member, said the Maoists were angry with him for keeping them in the dark about their plans to attack the train and took him away on Tuesday.
“Bapi has gone with our dadas (Maoists). They held several meetings with us and repeatedly wanted to know why they were not informed about the sabotage plan. They were angry with Bapi,” said a member of the village squad that carried out the operation, which resulted in the death of 150 people.
Director-general of police Bhupinder Singh said there was a “rumour” that the Maoists might have killed Bapi. “But we cannot confirm this as no body has been found yet,” Singh added.
The village defence squads were set up by the Maoists in around 1,000 villages in Jangalmahal early last year.
These youths, whom the rebels can no longer control, were given crash courses in carrying out strikes on government property like railway tracks, and use of firearms.
The defence squad members in eight West Midnapore villages, including Borobari, Jhunjhuni, Indraboni and Rasua, had planned the sabotage to mark the “black week” called by the Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities.
CPI (Maoist) sources said Bapi had “confessed” to them that no “clear” plan to sabotage the tracks had been chalked out. “The method (of the sabotage) was not clear to the local village squad members. They changed their plan thrice and finally decided to sabotage both the up and down tracks at Rajabandh,” a CPI (Maoist) leader said.
According to village squad sources, Bapi and his accomplices had first decided to derail a goods train. “Then they chose a passenger train to give a bigger jolt to the administration. They even had plans of taking a few passengers hostage after derailing the train,” a squad member said.
Sources said before taking him away from his home in Rasua village, the Maoists questioned Bapi, who told them the defence squad members involved in the sabotage had not expected so many casualties.
“Our aim was to derail the train and send a message to the administration. But we had no clue that a goods train would come from the opposite direction at the same time and ram into the derailed compartments of the Jnaneswari Express,” a Maoist source quoted Bapi as telling the rebels.
But the Maoists were not satisfied with Bapi’s explanation and reprimanded him for not informing them before carrying out the attack, the source added.
The rebels were also apparently not happy with Bapi’s leadership of the village defence squads in the eight West Midnapore villages.
“There were a number of complaints against Bapi. An elderly housewife and a pregnant woman had complained to us that they were forced to take part in a rally a couple of months ago. The elderly woman had collapsed,” the Maoist source said.
“Action may be taken against him,” the source said.
State intelligence branch officials, however, said the rebels took Bapi away as his arrest could cause a “setback” to rebel plans.