'They wanted to set it on fire'

Maoist mayhem: Rajdhani passenger recalls hours of terror

A broken window of the Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express at Banshtala near Jhargram in West Midnapore  district on Tuesday  PTI“However, they damaged the train by breaking the door and window panes after forcing us to get down”, Himansu informed a local Oriya television news channel OTV with the help of his mobile phone.

Giving a first hand account of the incident, he said the express train was passing through a forest area after leaving the Jhargram station when it came to a grinding halt with a big noise.

High drama

“Suddenly we found about 300 to 400 men and women armed with arrows, bows and axe as well as lathis(sticks) surrounding the train. They forced their entry into the train and asked the passengers to get down”, said Himansu adding that after some time they(the passengers) came to know that the people were Maoists and they had kidnapped the driver of the train and his assistant.

He said, the passengers who included many women and children were panicked at the sudden turn of event.

Himansu said, when evening set in and temperature outside started falling, the naxals allowed all the passengers to go back to the train and sit in their respective compartments. “At present we are inside the train and we do not know what is going on outside”, he said.

He informed that neither the super fast express had any security men inside nor any police were in sight when the Maoists captured the train.

The naxals who were speaking in Bengali and in a tribal language, interestingly wrote in English on the bodies of some of the bogies their demand that their leader Chatradhar Mohato arrested by West Bengal police be released immediately.

Senior public relations officer, East Coast Railways, Muralidhar Sahu told Deccan Herald that the ill-fated Rajdhani had 475 passengers. Many of them were from Orissa.
He said, the train had left Bhubaneswar at 9.25 am on Tuesday and had reached Kharagpur in West Bengal at around 2 pm. “The Maoists captured the train around 2.43 pm near Jhargram”, Sahu said insisting that all the passengers of the train were safe.

As soon as the report of the incident started flashing on the TV news channels, it triggered panic among the relatives of the passengers. While some rushed to the Bhubaneswar railway station, others remained glued to their TV sets to get further information about the development. Many managed to speak to the passengers through mobile phone.

The state government also swung into action immediately with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik holding an emergency meeting at the secretariat with senior state government officials.

“I am extremely concerned about the safety of the passengers from our state. I have already spoken to the prime minister, union home minister, railway minister as well as the West Bengal chief minister about the incident”, Patnaik told waiting reporters at the secretariat. 

Rajdhani leaves

The Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express held up by a pro-Maoist group in West Midnapore district left on Tuesday night after detention of seven and half hours and would be escorted by CRPF to the national capital, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said. “The train has left with a pilot engine in the vanguard,”the minister said. 

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