Diphu, Jan. 20: The engine and three bogies of the Howrah-bound Kamrup Express derailed early today after suspected Karbi rebels triggered an improvised explosive device on the tracks between Diphu and Nailanung stations in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district.
Though there were no casualties, the Assam government immediately sounded an alert throughout the state, fearing similar “terror tactics” by militants in the run-up to the Republic Day celebrations.
The tracks were restored and cleared for traffic at five this evening.
Karbi Anglong superintendent of police Ab dul Quddus said the finger of suspicion pointed towards the hardline faction of the United People’s Democratic Solidarity. One faction of the outfit has entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Centre. The Dima Halam Daoga, another militant outfit active in the district, is also adhering to a ceasefire.
In Guwahati, chief minister Tarun Gogoi said “frustrated militants are trying to create terror by going for soft targets” but claimed that the situation was under control and law and order was “improving”.
The blast left a big hole between the tracks. “Had the blast occurred two to three seconds later, the entire engine would have been completely blown off,” Quddus said.
The blast site is two km from Nailalung, a nondescript township about nine km from Diphu. The bogies that derailed were a parcel van, a luggage van and a second-class general compartment.
Passengers, who were jolted out of their sleep by the explosion, criticised the “slow pace” at which the railway authorities made alternative travel arrangements. One of them, who identified himself only as Sharma, said he walked a kilometre with his wife and child to reach the highway to hitch a ride, but had to return to Diphu station after several hours of wait “without food and water”.
Passengers of other trains, stranded at the nearby stations of Lumding and Rangshilat, also complained of being “left to fend for ourselves”.
Railway authorities, however, said passengers of the derailed train were transported by buses to Lumding and then taken to Howrah by a special train from Guwahati in the evening.
A relief train from Lumding carrying medical personnel and other staff led by the divisional railway manager of Lumding arrived at the blast spot at 3.30 am. The additional general manager Northeast Frontier Railway, along with senior railway officials, are at the site, chief public relations officer of NF Railway Leena Sarma said.
This is the third incident to rattle the NF Railway within two weeks, though there has been no casualties. Twelve bogies of the Kamrup Express derailed on January 10 in Barpeta district between Pathsala and Tihu stations. On January 6, a fire broke out on the Guwahati-bound Dadar Express in Bijni.
The last bomb blast on railway tracks in the state was between Gossaingaon and Srirampur on April 5, 2002, on the Kanchenjunga Express. Two bombs exploded resulting in injuries to four persons.
Railway officials said the 5621 down North East Express, scheduled to leave Guwahati at 8.15 am tomorrow, has been cancelled due to the cancellation of the corresponding up train by Northern Railways from New Delhi.
The 5609 down Avadh Assam Express, which was scheduled to leave Guwahati at 8.30 pm today, has been rescheduled. It will leave Guwahati at 8.15 am tomorrow.