People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 23

June 06, 2010


Rail Accident & Media Reports

On PCAPA-Trinamul Nexus


THE union government has ordered a CBI probe into the gruesome train accident that occurred in the Jhargram area of West Midnapore district of West Bengal close to the Jharkhand border, on May 28. The state government too had initiated a CID inquiry into the accident and after preliminary investigations had named some suspects responsible for the accident. The investigations would be carried on jointly by these agencies. Meanwhile, without waiting for the conclusion of any inquiry, the Railway minister had gone to the media stating, “the accident was a political conspiracy” hatched by “opponents” to “malign her” and adversely “affect her party’s prospects” in the just concluded elections to the civic bodies in the state. With this, she not only muddied the waters by castigating her “political opponents” who are obvious, but also tried to divert the attention of the nation from some startling facts.


According to media reports, investigations of the state police identified the PCAPA activists and Maoists responsible for these attacks.  Hours after the derailment of the Jnaneswari Express, West Bengal police identified some leaders of the pro-Maoist People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) as the men who planned the attack. Police sources claimed Bapi Mahato and Umakanto Mahato, Jhargram-based PCAPA leaders, were behind the derailment. They said the PCAPA group was active in and around Banstala station. Based on intercepts of calls among Maoist activists, police and investigating agencies believe that the Jhargram CPI (Maoist) squad, including 12 cadres led by a 15-year-old boy named Kanu, and the local unit of the PCAPA removed the pandrol clips and were helped by some local people. The calls also indicate that some gangmen of the Railways were “engaged” forcibly to remove the clips from both the Up and Down tracks. A senior CID official said they had zeroed in on three of the gangmen.


Incidentally, the PCAPA has had fairly good ties with the Trinamool Congress of Railway minister Mamata Banerjee. The Trinamool even runs four “relief camps” in the Jhargram-Lalgarh belt for “victims of atrocities committed by the joint forces and armed CPI(M) cadres”. Suvendu Adhikary, Trinamool MP from Tamluk, said: “We condemn the train incident... we are running relief camps for the victims of atrocities committed by the joint forces. There are PCAPA supporters among the victims. But they are innocent people, caught in the crossfire between Maoists and security forces.” (Indian Express, May 29)


In the past, the Trinamool has held joint meetings with PCAPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato, made efforts to arrange legal support for arrested PCAPA supporters and run relief camps for PCAPA sympathisers. Ever since the 2008 rural polls in West Bengal, the Trinamool had been reaching out to Chhatradhar Mahato. An activist of the Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the Congress, during his college years, Mahato later became a member of the Trinamool. His proximity to Banerjee increased after he led a tribal agitation in the name of the PCAPA. In February 2009, Banerjee went to Lalgarh with her senior leaders and met Mahato. She held a joint rally with the PCAPA at Katapahari. When joint operations against the Maoists began in June 2009, she sent her two ministers, Mukul Roy and Sisir Adhikary, along with Partho Chatterjee, leader of Opposition in the state assembly to Lalgarh, Goaltore and other areas. In July, Adhikary, Roy and Chatterjee visited Lalgarh and met Mahato in Gohomidanga. They took with them clothes, food, medicines for PCAPA supporters.


Trinamool leaders have no hesitation in admitting that Mahato was actively involved with them. “In the last panchayat elections, Chhatradhar Mahato was in charge of three booths in Lalgarh on behalf of the Trinamool” said Gouranga Pradhan, West Midnapore district secretary of the Trinamool. PCAPA spokesperson Asit Mahato said: “Mamata Banerjee was definitely with us. She needed us.”


The “intellectuals” who backed Banerjee also took up the cause of Chhatradhar Mahato, visiting him in Lalgarh. After his arrest, some of them including theatre actor Saoli Mitra, who is chairperson of the Railway Heritage Committee, attended a rally for his release.


Hours before he was named as the prime suspect in the Jnaneswari train disaster, Bapi Mahato told a newspaper that he was “sorry” for what had happened, and that the targeting of the passenger train was a “mistake”.


Speaking to a reporter of the paper inside the Romroma forests, 8 kilometers from the accident site, Mahato, a key leader of the PCAPA, said: “We are sorry. We never wanted these innocent civilians to die. Trust me, we targeted the goods train. But somehow, we were fed wrong information that the goods train would cross through this track and we removed pandrol clips from a long stretch. We did not want to harm civilians. There must have been some miscalculation.” However, when contacted again after he had been named the “mastermind” of the carnage by Bengal DGP Bhupinder Singh and a search launched for him, Mahato denied all role in the attack.


Newspaper reporters could enter villages around the accident site only with his sanction. The road leading to Romroma forests and the villages surrounding it were blocked with felled trees. While regretting the civilian deaths at the meeting with the reporter, Mahato justified the Maoist anger. (Indian Express, May 31)


Bapi Mahato leads the PCAPA in the Guimara-Lalgeria panchayat area under Jhargram, controlling a vast area covering over 20 villages and railway stations like Khemashuli, Sardiha, Banstala and Jhargram. He joined the PCAPA a year and a half ago and was assigned the task of leading the Anchal Committee after the CPI (Maoist) Central Committee expelled three leaders in the area for the October 2009 detainment of Rajdhani Express. The next month, at a meeting in Romroma forests, attended by senior leaders including Bikash, Mahato was made the leader of the PCAPA.


This is what the media has got to say on the train accident, its perpetrators and the relationship they share with the party of the minister of railways. Let us hope that the union government does act once the enquiry reports are out and facts see light.