| Soldiers rehearse for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Sunday. (AFP)
Lucknow, Jan. 23: Soldiers marched in a rehearsal for the annual show of military might in Delhi and a few hundred kilometres away, some of their colleagues were charged with killing five people who were pushed out of a train.
Three jawans of the Rajputana Rifles and one of the Border Security Force were arrested.
At 4.30 am, a group of jawans travelling on the Delhi-bound Farakka Express allegedly shoved six fellow passengers out of the unreserved coach after an altercation. They fell on parallel tracks and under the wheels of the moving Sampoorna Kranti Express. Five, including a woman, were killed on the spot near Shikohabad station in Firozabad district of western Uttar Pradesh.
On Republic Day last year, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 21-year-old grandnephew was pushed off a train near Mathura, not far from here, and killed.
This time the big difference is that the suspected culprits are soldiers.
One of the six ' some reports suggested seven ' survived. Eyewitnesses said a fight had broken out between passengers and a group of over 10 jawans who boarded the train at Etawah.
The jawans had asked the passengers to vacate the seats for them, which they refused to do since the coach was not declared reserved for army personnel.
'Go to hell if you cannot make room for us. Vacate the seats for us. Go to other coaches or we will send you flying out into the fields,' the jawans screamed at the protesting passengers, statements recorded by the railway police said.
When the train neared Shikohabad, the jawans allegedly began pushing the passengers off the train. There was a minor stampede in the coach, said the eyewitnesses, in the pushing and shoving by the jawans and some passengers were forced out.
Police sources said that as the passengers were dumped out of the train into the chilly morning, the other train slammed into them.
Three of the five killed have been identified as Nemilal (41) ' said to be from Bhind in Madhya Pradesh ' and Mahesh (28) and Sukhram (33) from Etawah. The other two, a 32-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man, could not be identified.
Ram Kumar, the senior superintendent of police, Firozabad, said the railway police had registered a murder case against the arrested jawans. The three army jawans are Jogendra Singh, Pradeep Kumar and Rajendra Kumar and their BSF colleague, Deepawal Biswas, the police said.
'Prima facie it is a murder case but we will examine the culpability of the accused after gathering evidence,' said an officer.
Police sources said the arrested jawans defended their attempt to get space in the train by arguing that they were carrying sensitive official materials. The army cantonment in Agra has sent a team to examine the circumstances leading to the tragedy and extent of the jawans' involvement.
It was not known what the ultimate destination of the jawans was, but they were on a train to Delhi where smartly-dressed soldiers took part in the full dress rehearsal this morning for the Republic Day parade.