Over 100 armed Maoists attacked a Patna-bound train in Jamui district on Thursday afternoon,killing three people,including a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable and a Bihar Police sub-inspector,and injuring over a dozen others,including the train driver and guard. The Maoists looted the passengers and fled with the weapons of the RPF personnel.
The incident occurred near the Bhalui station. The Maoists detained the Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express for almost an hour-and-a-half near Kunder Halt,a hilly area near the Gurmaha forest which is known to be a Maoist hideout. The Barhat CRPF camp is about 8 km from the spot.
The victims have been identified as RPF constable Sukhant Deonath,Bihar Police sub-inspector Kumar Amit and Mohammed Sarwar Islam from Bhagalpur. Amit was posted at Patrakar Nagar police station of Patna and was travelling in the A-1 coach.
A preliminary inquiry by Railways revealed that one of the attackers,who was in the train,pulled the chain a little after Jamui station. When the train halted,the Maoists boarded it and carried out a search for RPF and Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) personnel. They searched each coach and even the toilets,before they were engaged in a cross-fire, said a Railways official.
The Maoists reportedly opened fire and exploded crude bombs. The five armed personnel three RPSF and two RPF on board the train were outnumbered. The Maoists also took away an INSAS rifle and an AK-47 from RPF personnel.
When the train stopped near Kunder Halt at around 1:45 pm,we thought it was because of traffic. But I saw over 50 men and women,with their faces covered,carrying arms. We bolted the doors of the coach and lay on the ground for almost an hour. We heard sounds of firing and bomb blasts, said Pranav Kumar Choudhary,a passenger who was in the B-1 coach. According to Choudhary,passengers from other coaches were forced out of the train,and their cash and belongings were looted.
The train later left for Kiul station,where the injured were treated and the train was checked to ensure no bombs had been left behind.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh said in Delhi that the primary objective of the attack was to loot weapons from the RPF personnel. Top sources said the Maoists are facing a severe shortage of arms and ammunition.
The home ministry has asked the Bihar government to send a detailed report on the attack. The CRPF,BSF and Government Railway Police personnel have been sent to the spot for combing operations.
The attack site is not very far from the Kajra forest,where Maoists killed eight policemen and held hostage four others for a week about three years back. The Kajra-Lakhisarai-Jamui forest area is among the most active Maoist zones.
Meanwhile,Railways minister CP Joshi announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the three victims,Rs 1 lakh to a passenger who was seriously injured and Rs 25,000 each to the other injured.
As many as 17,255 security posts are lying vacant in the Railways. While the RPF escorts around 1,275 trains in vulnerable stretches,the number of security personnel for each train is far less than what was intended. The RPSF,a special force raised for battling such attacks,is hopelessly ill-prepared due to the shortage of manpower and adequate training facilities. A plan to overhaul the security with an integrated system has been in the pipeline for years.
With inputs from ENS,Ranchi