Mob missiles target trains on open line

Closure of Chandrapura railway section spurs transport chaos in capital, commotion in Coal Belt

By Our Correspondent
  • Published 16.06.17
Damaged AC coach windows of the Dhanbad-Alappuzha Express that had to make an unscheduled halt at Nichitpur on Thursday. Picture by Gautam Dey

A goods train and a passenger train bore the maximum brunt of resentment over closure of the Dhanbad-Chandrapura railway line from Thursday, on a day the business community and Opposition parties enforced a bandh in Katras, 15km from the state's coal capital.

While stationary salt wagons weren't damaged in the heavy stone-pelting, the AC coaches of Dhanbad-Alapuzzha Express were left with more than a dozen shattered windows. Luckily, the shards of glass didn't injure any passenger seriously although the galloping train had to make an unscheduled halt for around half an hour.

Sources said trouble started at Nichitpur halt on Grand Chord section of South Eastern Railway, 2km from Katras, as early as 8am when four-time former Baghmara MLA and Congress leader O.P. Lal and his 100-odd supporters squatted on the tracks to block movement of the Howrah-Ranchi Shatabdi Express. A 100-strong police squad, deployed at the station in anticipation of protests, acted promptly and took the leader and his men into preventive custody.

However, more than two hours later, around 10.50am, another mob of 100 from Katras tried to barge into a fortified Nichitpur. Stopped at the gate, they took a diversion to reach Gaushala railway underbridge, 300 metres away, where they targeted the goods train. The 13351 Up Alapuzzha Express faced the stone missiles as it was crossing the stretch around the same time.

"As many as 15 windows of first class, AC-II and women's coaches were broken during the 10-minute violence when stones and bricks were pelted. Fortunately, no passenger sustained serious injuries. The train had to halt. It left Nichitpur around 11.25am," said B.M. Mishra, the officer-in-charge of RPF Dhanbad.

Senior district officials and the police brass, including deputy commissioner A. Dodde, deputy development commissioner Kuldip Chaudhary, SSP Manoj Ratan Chothe, SDO Rakesh Kumar, ADM (law and order) Rakesh Dubey and Baghmara DSP Bahman Tuti, visited a troubled Nichitpur later in the day to take stock of the situation.

"Those who pelted stones will be brought to book. Some have been arrested. Violence in any form in the name of protest is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," DC Dodde told reporters at the site.

He, however, maintained that police could keep vigil on station premises, but it was practically impossible for them to man kilometres of tracks.

"We have deployed additional forces at several railway stations (Kusunda, Baseria, Bansjora, Sijua, Angarpathra, Katrasgarh, Tetulia, Sonardih, Tundu, Budora, Phulwatand and Jamuni to name a few), where prohibitory orders were imposed to facilitate closure of the fire-hit Dhanbad-Chandrapura line," Dodde added.

The daylong bandh, sponsored by the chamber of commerce and supported by Opposition parties, meanwhile, passed off peacefully, with most shops on station road, Pachgarhi Bazaar and Rani Bazaar areas of Katras remaining closed.