Barely a month after the first train chugged into Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh, railway authorities have been prompted to suspend services. Following alleged threats by unidentified miscreants, the railway staff in Naharlagun and Gumto stations have been also withdrawn.
The train service to Naharlagun (only 13 km into the state) had begun on April 7 but have been suspended since Friday. An advertisement published in Itanagar newspapers by the Railways Ministry has said the services will only resume once the situation improves.
Officials at the Northeast Frontier Railway headquarters in Guwahati, however, remained tightlipped on why the service was suspended.
Papum Pare district SP Mari Riba said that while demands put forth by some student bodies in the area was one reason, a landslide on the tracks caused by heavy rainfall last week could be another.
The SP, however, said he was unaware of any complaint that the railway staff at Naharlagun was threatened.
Various student bodies in the state, including the All Nyishi Students’ Union (ANSU) and All Papum Pare District Students’ Union (APPDSU), had last week demanded that train services be suspended till railway authorities fulfilled certain demands that they had agreed to back in 2008.
The most important among these was to implement a mechanism to ensure that no ‘outsider’ entered the state without an Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is required for all non-residents to enter the state.
While checking ILPs of outsiders is a task entrusted to the state police, the introduction of the railway service had created a huge problem for authorities as the infrastructure was inadequate at the Naharlagun and Gumto stations.
The student bodies had on April 28 submitted a joint memorandum to the state government seeking the immediate suspension of train services till a permanent mechanism for checking ILP was in place.
Earlier, the police had a harrowing time every time the train arrived from Dekargaon in Tezpur (Assam) carrying passengers without ILPs. “In the first three weeks, we sent back at least 28,000 people,” SP Riba said.