West Bengal's intellectuals divided over rail disaster

Last Updated: Sun, May 30, 2010 13:54 hrs

Kolkata: Intellectuals in West Bengal have unanimously condemned the deaths in Friday's train accident in Jhargram but are divided in fixing responsibility for it.

Those close to the state's ruling communists blame the Maoists for the attack, and sympathisers of the opposition Trinamool Congress say there is no proof the rebels were involved.

Supporters of the Trinamool have, for drawing political mileage, even gone to the extent of accusing the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) of hatching the conspiracy to show Trinamool chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in poor light.

'We have to see who can benefit politically from this killing. Why did the incident occur just before the May 30 civic elections? A leader of a ruling political party had earlier said there can be bloodshed, and here is the proof. The incident took place in order to harm the image of Mamata Banerjee and to stop the political change,' said Suvaprasanna, a painter with Trinamool leanings. He has been appointed chairman of the passenger amenities committee of the railways.

Writer Tarun Sanyal said he wanted a probe to nail the perpetrators of the Gyaneshwari Express train derailment.

'It has not been proved that Maoists triggered the accident. Let an investigating agency prove it first. But I condemn this incident,' Sanyal told IANS.

Painter Jogen Chowdhury, known to be close to Banerjee, took the argument further.

'There are doubts over who caused the tragedy. Nobody is a fool. Everybody understands why this incident happened just two days before the civic elections,' he said.

Polling for 80 municipalities and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation was held in the state Sunday.

But a section of intellectuals with links to the communists chose to differ. 'It is a very sad incident. I just want to say that Maoists should realise what they are doing,' said Sunil Gangopadhyay, writer and president of Sahitya Academi.

'If it is due to sabotage, then it is a heinous crime,' said actor Soumitra Chattopadhayay.

Renowned writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, known for his neutral stand, called for strengthening the local police.

'I condemn this violence. I don't know what they are going to achieve by killing innocent civilians. But I also feel that local police should be strengthened to counter them more effectively,' said Mukhopadhyay.

The Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express went off the tracks between Sardiha and Khemasuli railway stations in Jhargram at 1.30 a.m. Friday, and five coaches fell on a parallel track. Before the trapped passengers could realise what had happened, a speeding goods train coming from the opposite direction rammed into the five coaches, crushing some of them.

Politicians in West Bengal cutting across party lines lost no time in rushing to score brownie points over the accident.

While Mamata Banerjee, who was one of the early birds at the accident spot Friday, her subsequent comments and efforts to shift the blame on the state government and particularly the CPI-M betrayed her political compulsions.

On the poll eve, she hinted at the complicity of the CPI-M in the disaster.

'I don't know who has done the heinous crime. But whoever has done it, it's a political conspiracy. I have requested the union home ministry to conduct a probe,' she said in Kolkata while seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.

Asserting it was an act of sabotage, Banerjee said she heard suspected Maoists say that it was perpetrated by the CPI-M. 'Why should such things be done to serve political interests two days before the polls?' Banerjee asked.

Another union minister and Trinamool leader, Sisir Adhikari alleged the CPI-M had masterminded the tragedy to put Banerjee in the dock ahead of the municipal polls.

The CPI-M fared no better in trying to make political capital out of the accident.

Not to be outdone, top CPI-M leader and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee rushed half a dozen ministers to the accident spot Friday, before visiting the hospital himself later in the day.

Quoting preliminary police findings, he held Maoist guerrillas responsible for the mayhem.