Armed adivasis may have held their train for more than five hours, but the passengers of the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express seem to be gunning for the railway authorities.
It was a more than five-hour ordeal of tolerating hunger and unbearable heat, as the air-conditioners could not run for long after the train stopped.
“We thought we were going to die,” said Hamid Khan, assistant labour commissioner of Orissa. “They wanted to burn the train. Where was railway security?”
The train reached New Delhi at 7.20 pm on Wednesday, nine hours late, with shattered windowpanes and graffitis such as “Release Chhtradhar Mahato” in red paint in English and Hindi.
Anchal Das, a passenger and a former MP from Jajpur in Orissa, alleged that the railway security personnel had got down before activists of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) struck.
The PCAPA activists, based in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district of West Bengal, about 200 km west of Kolkata, hijacked the Rajdhani Express on Tuesday near Jhargram in the same district to demand for the release of Mahato, their leader.
Das said, “I opened the door fearing they would shoot us if we didn’t open. And the staff changed out of their uniforms and sat with us. We thought we would be used as human shields in case of firing.”
P K Panigrahi, another passenger, said, “We remained seated. But they did not misbehave with the passengers.”
Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh each for all the staff members onboard.
At the station, the railway staff greeted the passengers with roses. A team of 20 doctors examined them.