Maoists did not harm us: Train driver

Rao, while talking to a vernacular TV channel here from Banstala station where the express was hijacked by a few hundred activists of the PCAPA, said the slogan-shouting activists, numbering between 300 and 400, put up a red shirt on the middle of the track, signalling the superfast train to stop around 2.30 pm.

“Even though we pushed the brake, the engine screeched to a halt a few yards away from where they wanted us to stop. As they stormed our cabin, the first thing they asked angrily why the train didn’t stop at the place they desired,”Rao said. “After we explained that a high-speed train doesn’t stop like that, they turned cool and didn’t misbehave thereafter.”

According to Rao, the PCAPA activists asked them to disembark from the drivers’ cabin and advised them not to board it again till they ordered them to do. “ We’re told a bundh is in force to protest the atrocities by the joint forces in the region and we’ve flouted their bundh call. None of us were physically harmed.”

The main driver K Anand Rao was believed to have been whisked away by the activists who also dispossessed them of their walkie-talkies. Rao was strictly cautioned against making any attempt to drive the train away.

When asked if he got in touch with higher railway officials and sought urgent assistance and advice, the assistant driver replied in the affirmative as the activists did not take their mobile phones away, but had no clue about the rescue measures being devised.
To another question on whether they made any appeal to the group for releasing the train as the place was desolate and the passengers would be in dire stress if the train was held up for a long period, he said: “We had requested them not to detain us for long to which they said the group leader has been engaged in negotiations with the authorities. Once a decision is reached, they’ll let us free.”

The driver, who could hear gunshots in the distance, did not drive the train away even when the activists and their escorts melted into the adjoining jungle nearly an hour before the forces stormed the area and took control of the super-fast train.

“It would have been very risky to drive the train in the dark after such an incident as you never know what lies in store for you ahead, specially after their stern warning. We can’t risk the lives of so many passengers,” Rao said.

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