Home Top Story Hirakhand horror Is ISI on killing spree?

Hirakhand horror Is ISI on killing spree?

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A maze of clues suggests clear signs of sabotage in the recent train accidents in different parts of the country that left hundreds dead and several more injured. Is the Pakistan intelligence agency behind the killing spree? The News investigates

Siddhartha K Nambiar

Four major train accidents in three months that left over 200 people dead and several hundreds injured. Two mysterious murders in Nepal last year, recovery of an unexploded Improvised Explosive Devic

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(IED) from a rail track in East Champaran last October, and an alleged confession of possible involvement of Pakistan’s ISI. Intelligence agencies are wracking their brain over a maze of clues that suggests clear signs of sabotage in the recent train accidents in different parts of the country. Yes, a convoluted underworld web which had a cell in New Delhi that ran a travel agency, a man in Nepal and one in Karachi are in the radar of National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

A powerful unexploded IED from rail tracks in Chmaparan last October fell through the cracks was recovered, and three suspected underworld operatives — Moti Paswan, Uma Shankar Yadav and Mukesh Yadav — were arrested by the Bihar Police. They told the investigating officers that the Indore-Patna Express that was derailed on November 21, 2016, leaving 148 people dead, had been sabotaged. The planning was done in Nepal.

They also reportedly confessed to have received money to blow u

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up train tracks from a one Brij Kishore Giri, based in Nepal. Security agencies rushed to Nepal.

“Arun and Deepak Ram — both resident of Raxaul — took money but failed plant the IED. As punishment they were called to Nepal and their throats were slit. The two bodies were found dumped in a car,” a top INA officer handling counter-terrorism told The News.

On 1 January, fish plates and elastic clips were found to be removed on a railway track near Kanpur, on the Farrukhabad Kanpur section. Gangmen detected the fish plates and clips and averted a potential accident. Alert gangmen averted a possible tragedy. The CBI was promptly asked to probe a potential sabotage angle.

Close to 50 percent (approximately 45 percent) of the accidents on Indian Railways, since this decade began, are due to derailments. The other category that comes close (to around 40 percent) to this is that of level crossing accidents – unmanned rail road crossings. The two together account for over 85 percent of the categories of the accidents in Indian Railways.

Sabotage seems to be the cause of 2 percent of accidents in the past by the face of it. However, about 45 percent of the accidents were supposed to have taken place due to some form of human failure. In the case of most derailments, rail fractures or cracks, other than missing fish plates or rail clips, are supposed to be the most common form of accidents.

While there has been a lot of hue and cry over the slow replacement of most ICF coaches with LHB coaches, all the LHB coaches do is to reduce the risk of accidents by being safer at higher speeds greater than 90 kmph. Also, they do not capsize into each other because of strong anti-climbing features, that does not mean that they are not going to be accidents, it only means there will be lesser casualties.

The fundamental issues remain the lack of sufficient safety audits, the manpower (gangmen) re

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quired to carry out the same, and also enough safeguarding of the tracks to prevent sabotage.

In the case of the recent accident of Hirakhand Express, it is reported that the driver heard a loud cracker like sound just before the accident which means that this could have in all probability been a cracked rail, which means a patrol party of gangmen could have covered this as a part of their audit. Extreme temperature variations often accentuate existing cracks. In terms of best practices even a monitoring of the track conditions with respect to temperate would help. Speed restrictions could be placed in sensitive zones. All these need to be a part of best practices.

If sabotage is indeed turning out to be potential cause of accidents, then modernisation is perhaps the only way out. If fencing is required to speed up trains and prevent accidents with bovine creatures, it is all the more necessary to prevent miscreants from making their way to the railway tracks and removing fish plates and elastic clips that may cause derailments, which are about 45 percent of our accidents. But it comes with a cost, it could be as high as 0.4Cr per km or lower. Similarly, unmanned level crossings need to be then replaced with grade separators to minimize a human track interface.

Union Railways Minster Suresh Prabhu has turned out to be the most social media-savvy minister we have ever had. However, the current spate of accidents calls for a far deeper remedy than just getting the books in the black. It goes far beyond nuances of accounting to touching the core of operations. Issues pertaining to safety and modernisation are now completely intertwined. A comprehensive roadmap for both will bring about the long term solution to the current spate of accidents. And IR’s modernised railway stations need to start churning money fast to pump in such a comprehensive plan.

While investigators are looking into the possible role of Pakistan spy agency ISI in Kanpur derailment last year, Indian Railways is suspecting sabotage in Hirakhand Express derailment in Andhra Pradesh and there is a possibility that the Centre may ask National Investigation Agency (NIA) to look into the accident.

NIA is also investigating the matter after reports of arrested trio in confessing to having ISI links. “The Home Ministry may ask the NIA to investigate the Hirakhand Express derailment,” official sources told The News.

Railway authorities said the Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh where Hirakhand Express got derailed was Naxal prone and there was a possibility of sabotage ahead of Republic Day.

Suresh Prabhu who visited the accident site, along with senior railway ministry official, said that all possible causes of the accident would be probed and stringent action would be taken against the culprits.

The Ministry said that prima facie, it looked that derailment was caused by rail fracture but that had to be ascertained that whether it was caused by poor maintenance or someone did it intentionally.

“There are indications of foul play as a goods train passed the same track just two hours before the mishap. The inspection by the patrol team also found the track was fine on Saturday night. The driver applied emergency brake after feeling a big jerk and heard a loud sound,” said Railway spokesperson Anil Kumar Saxena. The NIA visited the Hirakhand Express accident site in Kuneru to probe possibility of sabotage

A team of four officers has reached the accident site.
At least 42 people were killed and 69 injured when engine and nine coaches of Jagdalpur -Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express jumped the tracks in Vizianagaram district, with the railways suspecting sabotage behind the derailment, the third in as many months.

The engine and nine coaches of the Bhubaneswar-bound train went off the track near Kuneru station around 11 pm on the star-crossed night. Two AC coaches, four sleeper coaches, two general compartments and the guard-cum-passenger coach besides the locomotive of the train were affected and four of these coaches had overturned.

Intelligence agencies claim to have joined the dots connecting train tragedies at Ghorasahan in East Champaran, Bihar and Pukhrayan, near Kanpur in UP, with handlers of Pakistani spy agency ISI in Nepal.

Sources associated with the investigation said that under a new strategy, ISI has been targeting local ‘Hindu’ criminals for use in terror activities by luring them with proportional moneybags.

Railway officials, however, appear to be on a different page. Top Railway Ministry officials, requesting anonymity, said that in their preliminary inquiry, no trace of sabotage was found in the derailment near Kanpur that claimed 150 lives in November last year. One official even ruled out any explosion near the tracks that could have resulted in the mishap.

“An inquiry is on, but the theory of a terror attack or sabotage does not stand. The nature of accident and evidences collected from the site do not indicate foul play. There was no trace of burn, explosion or any chemical on the spot,” a senior Railway Board official said.

“There was disbelief regarding ISI hand behind the derailment as claimed by Moti Paswan, but when we began checking the claims, the conspiracy began to unravel,” he said, adding that they also checked on the possibility of Naxalites’ role, but a clearer picture emerged after sustained interrogation of the arrested.

Sources said that on the instructions of his ISI handler, Shamshul Hoda hired Arun and Deepak, two Hindu criminals tasked to derail the train. “However, the duo developed cold feet. The powerful IED was later discovered and the ISI plan failed. Both Arun and Deepak were recalled to Nepal where they were eliminated by the ISI. Their bodies were found in a car,” the intelligence official said.

“This is the ISI’s new game plan, luring local criminals for terror activities. We suspect Sheikh Shafi to have links with some such groups,” he added. Intelligence officials point out that this is not the first time ISI is using a ‘Hindu smokescreen’. Ten LeT terrorists were made to wear sacred red threads, bought for Rs 20 each by David Coleman Headley from Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple in the infamous 2008 Mumbai attack. All the 10 terrorists carried fake identity cards of Arunodaya College of Hyderabad.

This time, the ISI has taken one step further. “They are now hiring real Hindus with criminal backgrounds. These criminals are promised a huge sum to carry out such dastardly attacks,” said an official. Notably, there have been five train derailments since November 20 last year. On Saturday, 10 coaches of Ranikhet Express jumped the tracks in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, though no casualty was reported.

In a related development, the Odisha police too have ruled out foul play in the Hirakhand Express derailment in which 42 people were killed and 69 injured. “There is no indication of Maoist hand behind the derailment,” Odisha DGP K B Singh said.

“Kuneru is not a Naxal-hit area. There is no movement of red rebels near the site for five years,” an intelligence officer said.
Hitting out at the Narendra Modi-led Central government over repeated incidents of train accidents, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Railways, which was the lifeline of the nation, was being neglected.

Condoling the death of 42 passengers in Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express accident, Mamata said, “Crores of people commute by railways every day. It is the lifeline of the nation. We are proud of our Indian Railways employees. However, now Railways is being neglected and given less priority.” The Trinamool Congress supremo, who has herself been the Railway Minister in the past, alleged that the Modi regime had ‘curtailed’ the budget for the Railways thereby compromising the safety and security of millions of passengers.

“We don’t blame the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu; he is earnest in his efforts. But, the government needs to address issues urgently,” she wrote on Twitter. The Centre has ordered a high level probe, to be conducted under the supervision of the Commissioner of Railway Safety.

Suresh Prabhu has announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has also announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for accident victims from his State.

Expressing grief over the deaths, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik spoke to Naidu assuring all possible help. Patnaik said that senior State government officials, including Odisha Chief Secretary and Director General of Police had been instructed to reach the accident site near Rayagada to oversee the relief operation.

The National Investigation Agency and Crime Investigation Department (CID) visited the train derailment site in Vizianagaram to study if there was sabotage or foreign involvement in the accident that left 42 dead. The tragedy occurred near Kuneru station, 24 km from Rayagada in Odisha. The train was on its way to Bhubaneswar from Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh.

NIA is already probing the alleged role of Pakistan’s Inter Services Agency (ISI) behind the Indore-Patna Express derailment near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh that claimed 150 lives. Officials have also not ruled out the involvement of Maoists as the Andhra-Odisha border area is considered a Maoist stronghold.

On 17 January, Bihar Police revealed that the two train accidents in Kanpur were planned and executed by ISI. The police unraveled ISI’s conspiracy following the arrest of three criminals – Umashankar Patel, Motilal Paswan and Mukesh Yadav – from Motihari district on the Indo-Nepal border. The three criminals were in contact with an ISI agent, a Dubai-based Nepali citizen, and were taking orders from him.

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