BIHAR POLICE may have ignited speculation on a suspected link of Pakistan’s ISI in the recent train accidents in Kanpur, especially the one near Pokhrayan that killed more than 150 passengers, but railway officials and investigating authorities remain sceptical.
Railways officials said that all facts known so far do not point towards any explosion on the tracks, or any sabotage.
Sources said in the Pokhrayan mishap of November 20, statements made by the loco pilot and the assistant loco pilot before railway authorities, as well as in the presence of the Commissioner of Railway Safety, never mentioned any explosion. These two functionaries are best suited to report any event of tracks being blown away by low-intensity explosives to cause derailment. “Statements made by the drivers point closer to a derailment due to classic rail fracture than tracks blown by explosives,” said a source.
Thorough assessment by zonal railway functionaries immediately after the accident never threw up any indication of external factors such as sabotage in tracks or coaches. Removal of fish plates or vital track pieces missing — the conventional signs of sabotage — were never detected at the section concerned.
After the accident, the driver reported that he found the overhead equipment shaking, and that he felt a jerk when he applied emergency brakes. He found that 14 coaches had derailed.
Sources in NIA, which sent a team to Motihari on Wednesday, also called Bihar police’s claims “curious” and “unprecedented”.
An NIA officer said, “If it is true, then it would be unprecedented. We have not come across this sort of sabotage activity funded by ISI.
Two people, among the group, who could not engineer a terror attack were apparently killed for their failure — this ruthlessness is not something witnessed in recent past. Things will be clear only after examination of evidence and the accused (arrested).”
For railway officials, this was reminiscent of the Howrah-Delhi Rajdhani Express accident in Rafiganj, Bihar, when 14 coaches fell in Dhawa river from a bridge on September 9, 2002, killing over 120 people. Then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, now the Bihar CM, had called it “sabotage” and even “terror link” — a claim subsequently echoed by then chairman of Railway Board I I M S Rana.
Subsequent probe by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) revealed it was a failure in the railway system.
Sources recall that then Home Minister L K Advani had questioned Nitish’s claim of sabotage or terror link since there was no indicator of either.
Preliminary report by the CRS is still due for the Pokhrayan accident.
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