Kolkata: Members of a tribal group in West Bengal laid siege to the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express near Jhargram in West Midnapore district, around 160km from Kolkata, for several hours until Central and state forces overpowered them.
The Delhi-bound train was stopped at around 3.00pm, said Manoj Verma, the district’s superintendent of police. It was stranded at Banstala between Sardiah and Jhargram stations.
Trouble on tracks: The Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express at Banstala in West Midnapore after its drivers were kidnapped. PTI
Though the rebels didn’t attack the 459 passengers, they were not allowed to get off from the train, creating a hostage-like situation.
Santosh Patra, a spokesperson for the rebel group, People Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), had said the siege would continue until the state government released tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato. But the tribals fled when forces stormed the train. Mahato was arrested on 20 September and charged with various offences including sedition, extortion and arson.
Shortly before the security forces wrested control of the train, West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in Kolkata that the state government would not give in to the rebels’ demand.
Maoist rebels had recently abducted a police officer in West Midnapore and released him after the state agreed not to oppose bail to 14 tribal women who had been arrested for harbouring rebels.
Communist Party of India (Maoist) politburo member Koteswar Rao told television channels that Maoist rebels did not lead the attack on the train, though they were supporting the tribals in their agitation against the state government.