Four persons were killed and 22 others injured, nine of them seriously, when the New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express derailed near Chapra, around 100 km from Patna, at around 2.08 am on Wednesday.
Both the Railways and police hinted at Maoist involvement in the accident though Union home minister Rajnath Singh and railway minister Sadananda Gowda refused to blame the rebels before completion of a probe.
Read: 4 killed as Rajdhani derails in Bihar, CM rules out sabotage angle
Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP MP from Saran – the same district where the mishap occurred – said that springs used to attach 'fish plates' were found removed from the tracks, indicating sabotage.
Passengers were jolted out of their sleep when the 12 coaches of the Assam-bound train derailed, out of which five overturned resulting in the death of the four persons.
Disoriented and shocked passengers shouted for help while groping in the dark to find a way out of the derailed coaches.
Read: ‘My life was shattered in front of my eyes’
"Barely two minutes after the train left Chapra, we felt a strong vibration followed by a loud sound. We opened the doors to a cloud of dust and found the bogie had derailed," said Shivam Singh, a staff of the pantry car.
Union minister for Railways Sadananda Gowda, who visited the site, said, "It would be unwise to blame anyone till the railway safety commissioner has concluded his probe".
In Delhi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said a couple of hours after the accident that it was too early to blame Maoists for the derailment.
"The Prime Minister has been informed regarding all developments. Even he agrees that it is too early to blame the Maoists. Let us wait for further report(s) on the incident," he added.
Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and director general of police PK Thakur ruled out Maoist involvement for lack of evidence.
Read: Passenger safety low on railways agenda
Those killed have been identified as Bharti Bedi, 45 of Ferozepur, Pawan K Dhawan, 55 and his wife Neelam Dhawan, 42 of Punjab and Shefali Dey, 65 of Pilipbhit in UP. Ironically, Shefali's husband Anil Chandra Dey is a retired railway official.
Of the injured, 14 seriously wounded passengers were sent to Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), while 10 others were admitted to Chapra sadar hospital.
On May 28, 2010, the Jnaneswari Express had derailed in West Midnapore district of West Bengal due to tampering of the tracks by Maoists. An oncoming goods train had hit the derailed coaches, resulting in the death of at over 140 passengers, considered one of the biggest Maoist-related train mishaps in the country.