A major train disaster was averted in Assam on Friday with paramilitary troopers spotting a powerful bomb on a railway track minutes before a passenger train was to cross the area.
A railway spokesperson said an alert Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) patrol spotted a bomb fitted with wires on the main railway track near Tihu, about 80 kms west of Assam's main city of Guwahati.
"The CRPF patrol team alerted us about the bomb and we immediately controlled the Manas Rhino passenger train ahead of Tihu," T Rabha said.
Army bomb disposal squads have reached the spot to defuse the explosive.
"We are not sure about the nature of the explosives used in the bomb, but it appears to be a powerful one," a senior police official said.
Several long distance trains, including the New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express, were held up and waiting ahead of Tihu.
"The bomb was discovered around 7.45 am and the Manas Rhino train was to cross the area some 15 minutes later. It would have been a major disaster had the CRPF team not spotted the bomb," the police official said.
Police suspects that the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) planted the bomb. The outfit is blamed for a string of explosions and grenade attacks on civilians and security forces in Assam in the past three weeks.
Meanwhile, a dawn-to-dusk general strike on Friday demanding withdrawal of military operations against the ULFA brought normal life to a ground in Assam.
"Shops and businesses, educational institutions and banks, remained closed, while most public and private transport remained off the roads," a police spokesperson said.
The shutdown that began at 6 am was enforced by the Peoples' Committee for Peace Initiatives (PCPI), a civil society group, to protest New Delhi's decision to call off a six week ceasefire and resume anti-insurgency operations against the ULFA.
"We want the government to begin peace talks by immediately stopping the military offensives against the ULFA. New Delhi should release five jailed ULFA leaders as sought by the outfit to facilitate direct talks between the government and the rebel leadership," said PCPI spokesperson Lachit Bordoloi.