Passengers of the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express had a harrowing time on Tuesday, when armed tribal agitators halted their train, smashed glass panes of the AC compartments and forcibly opened the doors, before taking away the drivers, at Banstala in Maoist-infested West Midnapore district.
"The train had just crossed Jhargram Station and was passing through a densely forested patch when a large mob attacked it with stones. The mob, armed with axes, swords, bows and arrows, smashed the glass panes and forcibly opened the doors as the passengers panicked," said passenger Susanta Das.
"All of us were asked to get down, which we did. We thought they will loot us. But they did not harm anybody after we followed their orders," said Das, a wildlife enthusiast who was on his way to Himachal Pradesh.
Most of the passengers thought that the armed attackers were dacoits. The train, which left Bhubaneswar at approximately 9 am, reached Kharagpur at nearly 2 pm. The incident occurred about half an hour later.
"Initially, we did not know that a bandh had been called in the area and we also had no idea why the train stopped," Das said, adding that the attackers initially appeared to be in a violent mood, but calmed down after the passengers obeyed their orders.
Subodh Tripathy, another passenger, recalled that after the train was stopped, the passengers locked themselves in. But the doors were forcibly opened by the agitators.
Jayant Mahakud, an engineer by profession, claimed the agitators looted some belongings, besides taking away food from the pantry car.
"Most of us have lost our belongings, including baby food packets," said Mahakud, a resident of Baripada in Mayurbhaj district of Orissa.
He boarded the train from Balasore and said the incident took place about an hour after the train left Kharagpur. Mahakud was traveling with his wife and two-year-old daughter.
Describing the incident as horrifying, manager of the pantry car Amit Kumar said armed men asked them to alight from the train, before they looted all the food and water bottles.
"We could not resist them because they were armed," Kumar said, adding over 400 people, including women, were involved in the attack.
B K Mohanty, another passenger, said, "We were kept hostage and surrounded from all directions. Though the incident took place at approximately 2.30 pm, no force arrived at the spot till 7 pm".
"Had the Railways taken adequate security measures, the incident could not have taken place," said an angry passenger.
'Aap gaadi start mat kariye jab tak hum bolega nahin', (Do not start the train till we tell you) the agitators told K Ananda Rao, the driver of the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express, after they stopped the train.
Rao, who denied reports of firing taking place in the vicinity of the train, also said that though 'everything was peaceful', the train was yet to resume its journey.