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BackYou are here: AnalysisOpinion Why the Maoists cannot be accused of being involved in the Gyaneswari Express incident


Why the Maoists cannot be accused of being involved in the Gyaneswari Express incident

by Amit Bhattacharyya

In the early hours of 28 May 2010, a goods train rammed 13 derailed coaches of the 2012 UP Howrah-Kurla Gnyaneswari Express between the Khemshuli and Sardiha stations in West Bengal, killing more than 150 people and injuring many others as reports last came in. The incident occurred around 1.30 a.m. when most of the passengers were fast asleep.  Immediately after the incident, the West Bengal DGP, Bhupinder Singh lost no time in blaming the Maoists for the disaster stating that the rebels had removed pandrol clips and fish plates from both up and down tracks leading to the accident. Mamata Banerjee, the Railway Minister, initially blamed the Maoists for an explosion on the track; later, however, she retracted and held that some political conspiracy was being hatched by the CPI(M) to malign her, her party and the railways department in order gain political mileage to stem inevitable defeat in the coming municipal elections.

Large sections of the media (Print and TV) have come all out against the Maoists and started publishing reports, editorials and articles almost every day. A section of the civil rights groups have also, without making any enquiry, have accused the Maoists of indulging in such 'terrorist' acts. What is particularly disturbing is that most of these reports appear to be blatantly biased and have not taken into cognizance the statement of denial of their involvement in the incident issued by the Maoists themselves.  Something like the mediaeval Europe type of witch-hunting has started with actors calling upon the central government to engage as many forces as possible to deal with this Maoist 'virus' and rejected any proposal for dialogue with them.

Significantly, Mr.Chidambaram has so far been maintaining a non-committal stance by describing the event simply as an act of 'sabotage', without apportioning blame on anyone. As an independent observer, what I feel is that in this vicious climate of 'terror' when all dissident voices are being threatened with persecution by making a mockery of democracy in this 'land of the largest democracy' in the world and where in the name of 'Operation Green-hunt' one of the most unjust, violent and brutal war is being waged against the people of our country, it is the truth that has become the worst victim. Here, I will try to argue why the Maoists cannot be legitimately accused of being involved in this inhuman man-made tragedy. In fact, whether one likes it or not, whatever circumstantial evidence we have till now points to a different direction.


Were jawans travelling by that train?


If one goes through the track record of attacks by the Maoists, it becomes apparent that they have always intended to attack those whom they regard as a major threat to them - security  forces, intelligence officers, landlords, political leaders, police informers and others tied up in one way or the other with what they regard as the present repressive state apparatus.  This train was a passenger train without having any special contingent of security forces on board, as far as one could gather.


The Maoists have denied their involvement in the incident

In a statement issued by Aakash, a member of the WB State Committee of the CPI (Maoist), whiich was published in one section of the Kolkata media, the Maoists have denied their involvement in the incident and also demanded an independent enquiry.  This statement is not unknown to the media; still sections of the media have not carried it at all or simply gave it such a small space in their report as if there was no such statement at all. One may argue that such denial is of hardly any value because the devils often indulge in such 'false' statements in order to conceal their 'crimes'.  However, if one goes through the history of their armed activities, one will see that the Maoists seldom told lies; whenever they carried out any military action, they accepted responsibility; whenever there were civilian casualties as a result of some mine blast or ambush either because of mistaken identity or unavoidable reasons, they tendered apology. I do agree that all lives are precious and civilian deaths due to armed attacks should always be avoided and criticized. But even then speaking the truth betrays an honesty of purpose on their part, which, even if it comes from the 'devil' should be appreciated. The mainstream media, by ignoring the Maoist voice have cast off their neutrality and exposed their own prejudice and bias unbecoming of their own profession. This is most unfortunate.


Who stand to gain and who stand to lose?

This incident, as is quite clear, is man-made; it is not an accident and the arrival of the goods train that actually did the most damage, was supposed to come in another line. The Maoists do not stand to gain from it. They stand to lose very much. The incident took place at a time when the municipal elections in West Bengal are just round the corner and the CPI(Marxist) is threatened with the prospect of landslide defeat  that is being considered by many observers as the dress rehearsal for the 2011 legislative assembly elections.  Such an event could isolate the Maoists from the people and at the same time also discredit Mamata Banerjee, the railway minister, which can also weaken her chance to gain victory in the 2011 elections. Why should the Maoists indulge in such things when they stand to lose and lose very dearly?


The incident took place in a CPI(Marxist) dominated area

By degrees, many new facts are coming to light. The incident took place in an area which is virtually under the control of the CPI(Marxist), and not under the Maoists.  The incident took place at Rajbandh that stands between Khemashuli and Sardiha stations. If one makes a circle around the zone keeping a radius of  3 kilometres, then villages such as Manikpara, Daldali, Barjar, Ghaghrashole, Burimol, Lalitashole, Putushol, Bhangabandh, Bahargora, Chhnanapara, Jhatibandh, Aakhrashole, Jaipur, Sardiha, Aamdila, Borchati, Kharda, Burishole, Dhudhkundi, Rajbandh, etc would come within it. Except Rajbandh where the incident took place, all other villages are controlled by the CPI(Marxist). As is reported in one Bengali newspaper (Ekdin 30 May 2010), at that very night just after the incident, about ten persons were seen to have been looking at the rail line with torches and talking among themselves. This has been corroborated by some injured passengers as also some common villagers. Suddenly they vanished and went towards Manikpara. Manikpara is now a CPM stronghold and a den of armed hermads. It was also reported that a meeting took place in the night of 26 May in the house of Arjun Mahato, a CPI(Marxist) leader at Putushole where Anuj Pandey-the CPM leader of Lalgarh zonal committee(whose palatial building was broken down by the people) was also present. In fact, the local people of Sardiha totally discard the theory of Maoist involvement in the incident. They point their fingers at other directions.  Asit Mahato has blamed the CPM. Even a section of the intelligence people, according to the report, claim that it was done by the CPM in order to malign the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities.


What is also quite remarkable is the appearance of CPM minister Sushanto Ghosh(who had earned much notoriety because of his role in Garbeta, Keshpur, Nandigram and Lalgarh) along with Rabilal Maitro and other ministers  as also party members at the spot in the early hours of 28 May 2010 followed by the chief minister himself.  This has also aroused suspicion among the local people. Such hectic activity on the part of the powers-that-be was never seen before anywhere else.


The accusation against the Maoists was based solely on the report given by Bhupinder Singh, the Director-General of Police, WB. This fellow can never be trusted; he can go to any length to manipulate the media for reasons best known to him. It was this fellow who had concocted the cock-and-bull story  of Chhatardhar Mahato owning palatial house in Mayurbhanj, having a life insurance policy amounting to more than Rs. 1 crore, etc; he did all these in the past just to malign the heroic movement of the people of Lalgarh. Now when on 28 May the Maoists came out with their statement of denial, the next day the media were fed by another story by the same DGP that some Maoist faction bearing such and such names has sabotaged the tracks.  It is for the readers to judge whether these arguments are acceptable to them or not.


I write as an independent observer who has been studying the Maoist movement from a distance.  These Communist revolutionaries have been waging a war for more than four decades since 1967 and have raised certain important questions which need to be earnestly addressed and discussed without any precondition.  Whatever the powers-that-be might think, witch-hunting, intimidation and state-sponsored brutality will take us nowhere. One should not make the truth the victim.


Amit Bhattacharyya is a professor of History at Jadavpur University

He can be reached at amit_bh200405@yahoo.com