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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 29, July 10, 2010

Jnaneshwari Express Sabotage and Mass Murder Case

Another Battle Between The CBI and West Bengal CID

Friday 16 July 2010, by Dipak Kumar Ghosh

Jnaneshwari Express Sabotage and
The people of the unfortunate State of West Bengal will recall the five famous cases of Bhikhari Paswan murder, Choto Angaria mass murder, Tapasi Malik rape and murder, Nandigram mass murder and Rizwanur Rahaman murder. There are some more similar cases, but the people distinctly remember these five important cases where the findings of the State CID were completely overturned by the subsequent CBI investigation.

Since the disastrous results in the last Lok Sabha elections in May 2009, the CPI-M has been accusing the Trinamul Congress of being hand-in-gloves with the Maoists in the Lalgarh area of West Medinipur. The CPI-M mouthpiece in Bengali has been regularly publishing concocted reports of the Trinamul Congress-Maoist joint actions in murdering CPI-M workers in that area. Sitaram Yechury has been almost daily accusing Mamata Banerjee of Maoist sympathy.

As these allegations were not cutting much ice at the Centre and in the minds of the people of West Bengal, the CPI-M started a conspiracy to conduct sabotage on the rail tracks to cause train accidents leading to loss of lives and thus embarrass the Railway Minister. About four months back, there was such an attempt near Bannagazar village to derail the Purusottam Express from Puri to New Delhi. The Jhargram MLA, Amar Bose, conspired with prominent CPI-M leaders, Haradhan Mandi, Hena Satpathy and Manik Satpathy, at the Jamboni party office and engaged a retired railway gangman, Jyotirmoy Rana of Dubra village of Jamboni P.S., and his men to take off pendrol clips to derail the Express. Men were carried to the spot in a 407 Tata truck named ’Abhinandan’ of Mukti Satpathy and two tracks named ’Shibdurga’ and ’Gopinath’ of Alok Kuilya, both of Dubra village of Jamboni P.S. The men included Kalidas Kuonr, Kedar Jal, Tapas Mallick, Pulin Hatui and others. Fortunately, a pilot engine running ahead of the Express train had detected the damage in time and the Express train was stopped at Jhargram station. After this failed attempt, the CPI-M was looking for another opportune chance and moment. That moment came three days before the last elections to the 81 municipalities all over Bengal.

Susanta Ghosh, the notorious CPI-M Minister from Garbeta, surveyed the area between Sardiha and Khemasuli in the afternoon of Wednesday, May 26. From early morning the following day, the armed CPI-M cadres, popularly known as ’harmads’, backed up by the armed police forces surrounded more than 30 villages in that area. At the dictates of the local CPI-M leaders, the police picked up more than a hundred known Trinamul and Janasadharaner Committee (People’s Committee) workers. The other non-CPI-M villagers ran away in panic. The operation continued till noon.

Dahareswar Sen, the CPI-M District Committee member in charge of Jhargram Sub-Division, held a meeting of the local CPI-M workers in the afternoon at Borjuri Primary School. His proposal was objected to by some people. He stopped the meeting and shifted with a few trustworthy cadres to the house of Arjun Mahato at Choto Chuashuli of Rajbandh village near Sardiha. The plan was finalised here. After Dahar Sen had left, Satadal Mahato and Hiralal Mahato, Local Committee members, took over. They went to a sponge iron factory near Sardiha Rail Gate and collected some workers belonging to the CITU. Bottles of liquor were purchased from the Manikpara liquor shop and the final round of briefing was held at the deserted Kali-Durga temple.

Two posters were written in black ink by Mahashish Mahato, a district level SFI leader, blaming the Maoists and the Janasadharaner Committee. These were found at the site and seized by the police. Maoists never write posters except in red. Mahashish has since shifted residence from Manikpara to Jhargram.

After 10 pm, the white pick-up van no. WB-34-A 6238 of Khagen Mahato, the husband of former CPI-M Gram Panchayat member Chabi Mahato, was summoned. The weapons of sabotage like hammers, crowbars, etc. were loaded on the van and the leaders drove to Jamshole between Sardiha and Khemashuli. The gangmen and the cadres followed on foot. A police officer of Manikpara P.S. kept close watch on the plea of patrolling the highway in a police jeep.

The operation started a few minutes before 1 am in the night of Thursday-Friday after the Hatia Express had passed. Within half-an-hour nearly 500 pendrol clips were taken off the rail tracks of the UP line and attempts were made to saw-off about three feet of the track. The Jnaneshwari Express, running at more than 70 km per hour, arrived at the spot at about 1.30 am. The derailed engine dragged the compartments outside the tracks and a few went on the parallel down track. The miscreants would not have known that a fully loaded goods train was running on the down track. Some CPI-M harmads had entered the derailed compartments of the Express train to loot the belongings of the passengers. They met the same fate as the passengers when the goods train came over these compartments. Some of the still unidentified bodies lying in different hospital morgues of Kolkata, nearly 50 in number, may be those of the unfortunate harmads who will never be identified.

The Railway Minister arrived at the spot from Kolkata at noon of Friday, May 28 and almost immediately demanded a CBI enquiry. Susanta Ghosh and other CPI-M leaders arrived a little later, ate biscuits, drank water and in a very relaxed mood put the blame on the Maoists and the activists of the Janasadharaner Committee. Almost immediately thereafter, the Maoist spokespersons denied any involvement. The State Government directed the CID to take up investigation which has never been done before in this State in any railway accident case earlier, including the very bad Gaisal accident near Islampur when Nitish Kumar was the Railway Minister. The Director General of Police reached the spot the same afternoon and blamed the Maoists and their local accomplices. He was singing the tune composed by the CPI-M state and party bosses.

The entire area has been cordoned off by the ‘harmads’ and the police since the disaster and even journalists are not being allowed to visit the place, to take photographs and to interrogate the locals.

IN the Bhikhari Paswan case, the CID had given a clean chit to the Additional SP, Harmanpreet Singh, of any misdoing. The wife of the deceased went to the High Court and the High Court ordered a CBI investigation. The CBI found Harmanpreet Singh and several other policemen guilty of kidnapping Bhikhari Paswan from his house, torturing him to death in the police outpost, putting his body in a sack and dumping the same in the Ganges. The criminal case is still not fully over, but Harmanpreet Singh has got several promotions and is now an IG of Police.

In the Choto Angaria mass murder case (January 4, 2001), the CID denied that there was any murder at all. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the spot, collected evidence and demanded a CBI enquiry. The DG of the National Human Rights Commission visited the spot and declared: "There has been murder.” Ultimately the CBI stepped in, arranged DNA testing and charge-sheeted about a dozen CPI-M men, including Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, close associates of Susanta Ghosh, of murder and other offences. The local police refused any help to the CBI to arrest the culprits. When Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali were arrested on November 10, 2007 at Egra while taking away three injured persons of Nandigram in a government ambulance, the police first tried not to identify them. The case fell through in the court as the witnesses turned hostile under tremendous pressure of the CPI-M.

In the Tapasi Malik rape and murder (December 18, 2006) case of Singur, the CID had tried to fix her father, Manoranjan Malik, of raping her own daughter, making her pregnant and murdering her by burning to remove all evidence of his sins. Ultimately, the CBI stepped in, arrested Suhrid Dutta, the Zonal CPI-M Secretary, and Debu Malik, a prominent CPI-M cadre, for the crime. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In the Nandigram carnage case, the CBI, acting on the order of the High Court, arrested 10 (ten) ‘harmads’ with their arms and ammunitions from Janani Brickfield and handed them over to the CID. The CID did not pursue the case property and all these accused persons jumped bail. Since then they are untraceable. The High Court has declared the police firing on March 14, 2007 as wholly unconstitutional and has directed the State Government to proceed against the culprit police officers. The State Government has moved the Supreme Court and stalled further action.]

In the Rizwanur Rahaman murder case, the CID had given a clean chit to the Police Commissioner, Prasun Mukherjee. The Division Bench of the High Court has recently directed the CBI to start fresh investigation on the basis of the FIR filed by Rukbanoor Rahaman at Kareya Police Station in which murder had been alleged.

In all these cases, the CID acted as per the directions of the CPI-M and tried to protect the guilty CPI-M persons. But fortunately, the CBI succeeded in finding out the truth and nailing the culprits. The people of this unfortunate State, and specially the relatives of the passengers of Jnaneshwari Express, will wait with bated breath to see the CBI again rising to their expectations and sooner than later arraigning the real culprits.

The author, an erstwhile member of the IAS, is a former Principal Secretary to the Government of West Bengal; he was also a Trinamul Congress MLA from Mahisadal.

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