Oct. 15: Maoists targeted railway properties in Jharkhand and Orissa in the wee hours today, setting fire to three engines of a goods train and blowing up a portion of the track at a halt station.
No casualties were reported from the raids but traffic was disrupted for over eight hours on the Howrah-New Delhi Grand Chord route.
Three diesel locomotives were set ablaze and as many electric engines damaged by a group of Maoists at Topadihi railway station in Orissa’s Sundargarh district around 2.30 am today.
The incident took place on the Rourkela-Vimlagarh line when a group of armed Naxalites asked the drivers and attendants to alight.
While some sources said there were around 50 Naxalites, others suggested that there were about 100 rebels in the group.
The three diesel engines were pulling a goods train and the driver was waiting for signal at the station, around 50 km from the Jharkhand border, at the time of the incident. The electric engines were not attached to any wagon.
Divisional railway manager of Chakradharpur, South Eastern Railway, B.K. Gupta said: “According to the information provided by the local station superintendent, the Maoists forced the driver of the diesel locomotives to alight from the train and then torched it. After that they moved towards the electric engines and asked the driver to leave.”
“As the bandh called by the Naxalites failed to have an impact in the city yesterday, they probably wanted to create some sensation,” said railway superintendent of police (Rourkela) Mahendra Pratap.
Jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force were sent to the spot and the nearest police station, 25 km from the spot at K. Bolanga under Bonai subdivision, was alerted.
Rourkela is 130 km from Topadibi, which lies between Ragra and Karampada stations and is part of an important goods corridor.
Deputy inspector-general of police (western range) Satyajit Mohanty said the situation was under control and there were no casualties. A combing operation has started but police were yet to make arrests.
Railway sources said police did not allow them to rush emergency support to the spot fearing a Maoist ambush.
“Despite our preparedness, we were not allowed to move ahead with the emergency services we had. The fire extinguishers could not reach the spot even after more than seven hours after the incident. The engines were torched around 2.30 am and the first group of reinforcements reached the spot at 9.30 am,” said a railway source.
“It was too late and the fire could not be doused with the extinguisher. We were forced to leave the engines burning till all the diesel was burnt.”
Another rail official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the engines continued to burn till late this evening and movement of trains was stopped for the day.
“If the police had helped us reach the spot on time the damage could have been minimised. Now we fear that the three diesel locomotives have to be scrapped, a loss of not less than Rs 10 crore,” he added.
In the other raid on railway property, a group of Maoists blew up a portion of the track at Chengdo halt station at 1.15 am in Jharkhand’s Giridih district.
Sources said the blast — which took place between Parasnath and Chaudhari Baandh stations — was so severe that it blew up 5 ft of the track and damaged the overhead wire.
Several long-distance trains — including the Calcutta Rajdhani Express (2302), Kalka Mail (2312), Doon Express (3009 and 3010), Mumbai Mail (2321 and 2322), Jodhpur Express (2307), Ganga Damodar Express (3330) Hatia-Patna Express (8624) and Chambal Express (2176) — were stranded at Dhanbad, Gomoh, Parasnath, Saria and Koderma.
A team led by subdivisional police officer Anuranjan Kisphotta rushed to the spot where some Maoist handbills, demanding the release of rebel leader Shila, were found.