The Haryana police on Wednesday launched a massive manhunt for a group of young men who allegedly stoned a train in which Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was travelling the previous evening, even as the party said security of leaders was as important as austerity measures.
The police searched for four or five young men who allegedly stoned the Swarn Shatabdi Express in which Gandhi was travelling from Ludhiana to New Delhi. He took a train instead of the usual helicopter as part of austerity measures initiated by Congress leaders.
The police and Railway Protection Force (RPF) probing the stone attack Tuesday evening near this Haryana town, 120 km from New Delhi, said the guard at a railway gate had seen four or five youths, aged 16 to 18 years near the spot.
Accompanied by forensic experts, the police questioned many people and searched villages in the region.
"These people seem to have stoned the train. We are investigating the matter based on various clues. People in nearby villages are being questioned," said Rohtak Range Inspector General of Police V. Kamaraj.
He added that no arrests had been made.
Meanwhile in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters: "We are committed to the austerity measures, but in such incidents, the security issues should be kept in mind and security of SPG protectees is of paramount importance" .
Asked if Rahul Gandhi and other top leaders of the party will stop their austerity drive because of security issues, she said: "I have no information regarding this."
The Congress MP followed his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who Monday flew economy class to Mumbai.
Though no one was injured in the train attack, three coaches, C-2, C-4 and C-7, were damaged.
One stone pierced the twin glass window of the Shatabdi Express and landed inside coach C-4. The glass panes of two other coaches suffered damage.
The attack is being viewed seriously by Haryana Police as well RPF officials because the train had a VIP guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG) on board.
None of the stones hit the C-3 coach in which Rahul Gandhi was seated, on a window seat.
The SPG did not allow the train to stop at Panipat station following the incident.
Rahul Gandhi, who travelled by train to and fro Ludhiana and Delhi, alighted at the New Delhi station just after 11 p.m. Tuesday. He looked unperturbed.
Fellow passengers said the incident left them disturbed.
"A child sitting next to the smashed window could have been hurt. If this has happened because of Rahul travelling on this train, it would be better if such VIPs don't travel with the public. The stone hit the window like a bullet and landed inside with glass pieces," a passenger said.
Rahul Gandhi had made the day-trip to Punjab's Ludhiana city to take part in a training camp for Youth Congress members.