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All Rajdhani passengers safe: Chidambaram

Last updated on: October 27, 2009 20:23 IST

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday said the New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express and passengers on board were safe and that the Centre has rushed a relief train to bring back the passengers.

"The train is safe. All passengers are safe... good news is the train is safe," he told mediapersons in New Delhi.

"CRPF and state police have reached the spot and the area has been secured. There is no no sign of any other adversary there," Chidambaram said. He also refuted reports that there was an exchange of fire between security forces and suspected Maoists.

"There was firing and a civilian driver was injured but there was no injury to CRPF personnel and there was no exchange of fire," Chidambaram said.

The Home Minister said the train will bring back the passengers on the Rajdhani Express. Chidambaram also said Union Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee was monitoring the situation form her office.

An engine has been set off from Jamshedpur to pilot away the stalled Rajdhani, the Railway sources said. This was done to ensure that there are no bombs on the tracks. It is planned to take the Rajdhani to Jamshedpur thereafter, the sources added.

Earlier, the Union Home Ministry asked the Central forces to rush to the spot in West Midnapur district in West Bengal from where two drivers of New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express were kidnapped allegedly by Maoists on Tuesday. The ministry has also sought a report on the incident from the state government as well as the Railway Ministry, sources said.

Earlier in the day, two drivers of the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express were kidnapped near Banstala in West Midnapore district by People's Committee against Police Atrocities, which said they had taken the duo for flouting its rail roko call.

The train came to a halt when driver K Anantha Rao found a felled tree across the tracks at Banstala, 10 km from Jhargram station, the police sources said.

Some men then took him away along with assistant driver K J Rao, the sources said. The railways said the train and all passengers were safe as also the guard.

The People's Committee Against Police Atrocities  -- a pro-Maoist organisation that represents local tribesmen -- has demanded the release of Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee.

Also a key figure in PCAPA, Mahato is in police remand in connection with the murder of Prabir Mahato, a CPM member of Dharampur.

Santosh Patra, who has taken over PCPA's leadership after the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato, claimed the drivers were in the group's custody but denied they had been kidnapped.

"They have not been abducted or harmed. There are with us at Banstola. We have nothing against them. We will release them shortly." Patra said the drivers had flouted the rail roko when an indefinite bandh against 'atrocities' by the joint security forces in the district had begun since Tuesday morning.

Jhargram SDO P Ulganathan said when the joint forces rushed to the spot there was a heavy exchange of fire at a place between Manikpara and Jhargram. "We have no report of casualty," Ulganathan said.

However, Maoist leader Kishenji, outrightly denied any involvement. "We were not involved in the kidnap. Neither did we call a bandh. The PCPA has called a bandh which we support."

Meanwhile, Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed through the local media to the PCPA to think about the thousands of the passengers  of the Rajdhani Express. "I am ready for talks," she told a regional television channel.

The Maoists had earlier sought a meeting with her.

With inputs from PTI

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