The railway tunnel at Bariakul near Jamalpur, where Maoists ambushed the Sahebganj-Danapur Intercity Express on Saturday. Picture by Amit Kumar
Jamalpur/Patna, Dec. 1: The armed rebels boarded Sahebganj-Danapur Intercity Express yesterday in the guise of job seekers and killed three policemen, exposing lack of alertness of the cops escorting the train.
Eyewitnesses said the train (13235) was crowded with examinees going to Patna to take a competitive examination on December 1. The CPI(Maoist) activists allegedly boarded the train’s last compartment meant for women and physically challenged at the Bariarpur station posing as candidates.
The divisional railway manager of Malda, Ravindra Gupta, echoed the eyewitnesses. “It was a pure case of sabotage. The hardcore rebels had entered the coach meant for the women and physically challenged passengers. They simply fooled the securitymen around to execute their devious plan.”
Gupta said: “It might have been hard to construe that the youths were rebels as they had disguised themselves as students. Both boys and girls were there. The securitymen and passengers might have accommodated them on humanitarian grounds. But the rebels fooled the securitymen, killing three of them and looting their arms.”
Lakhan Lal Mandal, a passenger who had travelled on the ill-fated train, said: “I was surprised to find a group of about 20 boys and girls heading to board the last compartment at Bariarpur. A teenaged girl boarded the train at Sultanganj and sat in front of me in a general compartment. After the ambush, a youth came to her and said ‘the work had been done’ and the duo left hurriedly.”
The injured cops claimed that they had allowed the youths in the ladies’ compartment because the rebels identified themselves as students going to write an examination.
Senior police officers were not ready to sympathise with the escort party members, though. “They (securitymen) were not alert. How can they allow youths in a coach reserved for the physically challenged and women? Prima facie it is a case of security lapse and lack of alertness on the part of the escort party members,” said a senior Government Railway Police officer.
The Naxalite strike yesterday on Sahebganj-Danapur Intercity Express near Jamalpur in Munger district is the second ambush on a running train within six months. On June 13, armed guerrillas of the CPI(Maoist) had attacked Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express and looted automatic weapons after killing three policemen near Kunder Halt in Lakhisarai district.
After the June 13 incident, top officials of the state government had conducted marathon meetings both in Munger and in the state police headquarters to chalk out a fresh strategy to prevent such attacks.
The officers had announced to strengthen the escort teams on important trains and launch a concerted operation in the Jamui-Munger region. Except a police base camp at Bhimbandh on the junction of Munger and Jamui districts, nothing concrete has been done so far.
A high-level meeting was convened at the Munger secretariat after the Jamalpur incident also.
Two additional director-generals of police, an inspector-general and two deputy inspector-generals besides the superintendents of police of Munger, Jamui and Lakhisarai attended it.
Bihar has a heavy presence of central paramilitary forces, but they are seldom used in the anti-Naxalite operation. The data released by the Centre on Maoist-related incidents revealed it.
Bihar witnessed around 160 incidents of Maoist violence since January this year compared to 130 reported in 2012. Altogether 44 people, including 16 policemen, have been killed this year. The figure stood at 25 last year. Not a single Maoist has been killed in 2013 whereas six Maoists were killed in 2012. The state also registered fewer number of police encounters.
A central intelligence committee report submitted to the Prime Minister recently also exposed the state government’s slack approach in dealing with the Maoist activities. The report revealed that the state registered a growth of around 41 casualties in Maoist-related incidents as compared to 2012. Three districts — Jamui, Gaya and Aurangabad — accounted for about 60 per cent of the total incidents reported in the past 11 months.
Former director-general of police Anand Shanker, who has been closely monitoring the Naxalite problem, said the situation had gained alarming proportions not only in Bihar but in all the Naxalite-hit states. “It calls for serious attention from all quarters and a stern step need to be taken immediately to preserve democratic institutions in the country,” he said.