When I wrote my first reaction to the Sardiha incident, I was tremendously angry and indignant. More than a 100 people, my fellow citizenry were killed in a tragic rail accident that was obviously a result of sabotage. I immediately attributed the act of sabotage to the PCPA - the mass organisation of the Maoists in the three districts of West Bengal, based on news reports that posters of the PCPA were found in the area. A valid criticism, I have received, has told me that I should do more due diligence before jumping the gun and putting blame over the PCPA/Maoists, for that would skew opinion against the PCPA/Maoists. That is a very fair point, but I stand by my theory. There are various reasons. This post addresses most of them.
The Maoists have now come up with statements volubly denying their role in the rail tragedy. Some Maoist sympathisers (Sankar Ray, for e.g. in a widely circulated email) claim that since there was no blast (although the Rail minister had gone on record talking about blasts preceding the accident, to which I shall come later) there was no Maoist involvement, as apparently blasts are the modus operandi of the Maoists. The PCPA meanwhile also denied that they had a role, through a statement from their current leader, Asit Mahato.
Personally, I find the distinction between the PCPA and the Maoists very artificial. It is but obvious that the PCPA has always been structured as a mass organisation of the Maoists since its inception, with some degree of autonomy in its operations, but ultimate subordination to Maoist interests. The acts of declaring liberated areas, the killing of political forces antithetical to the PCPA/Maoists, the use of the tactic of individual annihilation in the areas - these are part and parcel of established Maoist "praxis". The theory that the PCPA were "pushed" into the hands of the Maoists, made by some, therefore holds no ground and is naive.
It is therefore that I make the contention that the PCPA was most likely responsible for the incident and the Maoists cannot escape blame. I make my case in light of the following.
a) There were several attempts to contact the CPI(Maoist) top brass in the area - Kishenji & co. Their phones were switched off for the larger part of the day. An otherwise voluble spokesman, this guy didn't bother to reply or make a statement, and only later was an "official" statement made by someone in the WB state committee of the Maoists. A Telegraph report also pointed out that the PCPA leaders had switched off their cell phones and could not be contacted, before Asit Mahato made his statement later.
b) One point is being made that the Maoists have claimed responsibility for incidents in the near past. For e.g. the blasts killing civilians along with Special Police Officers in Dantewada recently. The Maoists claiming responsibility for previous acts - they are not doing any favour on us by doing so. But even if they didn't, was it difficult to prove that it was they who blasted the bus carrying SPOs? It was but obvious that they had to claim responsibility. Besides the pretense offered by the Maoists for justifying their attack on the bus was that there were SPOs in the bus, whom they had targetted. That civilians were killed, was incidental, for them. In the Sardiha tragedy, there was no pretense left; all of them who were killed were civilians.
c) They have a history of such sabotages/attacks on public transport. The PWG component had a history (and they used to own up too
); but the MCC has a very shady history
of these incidents in Jharkhand and Bihar, featuring in scores of them. I have myself spoken to a former MCC activist, who later joined JNU as a fellow student. The defense he had for sabotaging rail tracks was that, there was no other better way to register anger in rural areas, where otherwise the state institutions/symbols were absent; an argument I found ridiculous and which I had told him as well.
Somehow tragedies of this kind and order of the Sardiha case were thankfully avoided despite derailment..but I suppose the Maoists or the PCPA did not expect goods trains ramming onto passenger trains. But that does not absolve them of their guilt. They have continuously attacked the railways for years now, looking at it as a symbol of the Indian state and that remains.
d) The blame on the CPI(M) is farcical to say the least and definitely Goebbelsian. To say that the CPI(M) will use saboteurs because of upcoming "civic" elections is absolutely crazy. I find a lot of Maoist apologists making this argument for the convenient reason that this happened at a time when elections were about to be scheduled. A lot of the very same apologists made a similar argument during the Mumbai terrorist attacks blaming this on the Sangh Parivar because Hemant Karkare was killed. In other words, Maoist sympathisers were denying the involvement of jihadi terrorists in the Mumbai attacks in the very aftermath and engaging in conspiracy theories, ignoring the history of jihadi attacks and their ingrained policy of attacking civilians, if need be, to make whatever point they want to make.
e) The blast theory was made by the rail minister without any proof. The derailment (with proof of track disruption, clearly visible to all) was given by the police. It is clear that the lady was trying to lay the blame on the Maoists rather than the PCPA, while retaining an artificial distinction between the Maoists and the PCPA. For me the distinction between PCPA and the Maoists has never been valid, as I explain above.
I accept that one needs to investigate this thoroughly and find out who are the real culprits - as in which individuals were the ones who undid the rail tracks that ultimately resulted in the derailment. But that does not mean that the Maoists/ PCPA will escape censure or blame, despite their denials. They have a history - including a recent one in the very same area
- of attacking the Railways and it stands to reason that they did this. As I write this, the Telegraph comes up with a report
suggesting that this was carried out by indisciplined Maoist cadre.