Patna, June 9: Two passengers who were fast asleep in an AC two-tier coach of the Howrah-Danapur Express were shot dead this morning in a daring strike said to be the first of its kind in the history of Indian Railways.
The assailants apparently used 9-mm pistols and pumped several bullets into the sleeping victims. The incident took place 48 km from the Bihar capital, somewhere between Bakhtiarpur and Khusrupur stations.
Police, however, remain clueless about the murderers because other passengers travelling in the coach panicked and disappeared before the train pulled into Patna junction.
Efforts were being made till late in the evening to contact bona fide passengers and reconstruct what happened. Gang-rivalry emerged as the most likely motive for the sensational crime in the running train.
The victims were identified as Anil Kumar Yadav (40) and Vijay Kumar Yadav (30), who were returning from Calcutta after placing an order for paints. Small-time railway contractors, the two had recently bagged the contract for painting a railway bridge at Koilwar over the river Sone at Bihta (Bihar).
They had boarded a sleeper class compartment at Howrah on Tuesday evening along with a companion, Somnath Rai (27). While the two deceased managed to secure berths in the air-conditioned coach, the companion stayed back in the sleeper class.
Rai lodged an FIR accusing one Ritlal Yadav and four of his accomplices of executing the crime.
The police, however, detained Rai for interrogation, wondering how he could have known the identity of the assailants since he was travelling in a different coach.
The police are also investigating how the assailants learnt the exact berths allotted to the deceased, unless someone in the train had tipped them off.
In a bid to pre-empt escalation of tension, it was promptly announced that both the deceased, Anil Kumar alias ‘Soda’ and Vijay Kumar, and the main accused belong to the same caste.
The police also confirmed that the duo was itself involved in crimes like extortion, abduction and murder and were killed as a result of rivalry over railway contracts.
The accused, Ritlal Yadav, is a criminal with political links and is ‘officially’ absconding. He is wanted by the police in several cases, including the killing of a BJP candidate for the Danapur Assembly constituency.
Amid wailing by relatives at Jamaluddin Chak in Khagaul, around 15 km from the state capital, Vijay Kumar’s brother Santosh alleged that his brother had recently been beaten up by Ritlal Yadav’s men for failure to pay up Rs 50,000.
Ritlal, the mukhia of Kothwan village, is the most dreaded gang leader in the state capital according to police records.