A coach of an express train which halted at the Kannur railway station in Kerala caught fire in the small hours of Thursday and one person is reportedly in police custody in connection with the incident.
IMAGE: A police man inspects the train coach that was set afire in Kannur, Kerala, June 1, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo
The incident occurred on the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express train in which two months ago a man had set fire to his co-passengers, which resulted in three deaths including a toddler, leading to speculation that it might be a case of sabotage and connected to the earlier one.
Central agencies like the Intelligence Bureau and the National Investigation Agency arrived at the scene in the morning and are investigating all angles, including that of sabotage, sources said.
The fire was noticed by some station staff at around 1.30 am and they informed the Kannur Fire and Rescue Station which dispatched four units to deal with the blaze which was contained at around 3.15 am, a fire rescue officer said.
The train was stationary on a track 20-30 meters away from the platform and around 100 meters from a nearby Bharat Petroleum fuel depot, a fire rescue officer said, adding that one of its coaches was completely engulfed in flames.
The incident occurred after all the passengers had deboarded and therefore, no one was injured, an officer of RPS Kannur said.
Visuals aired on TV channels showed huge flames coming out from the windows of the coach with thick plumes of smoke rising into the air.
The incident also kicked off harsh criticism of the ruling Left government in the state by the opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly VD Satheesan said the government and the police were not dealing with such matters seriously and demanded a proper probe into the reasons behind such incidents.
It has created “insecurity” in the minds of the people, and that the state government needs to intervene and take steps to strengthen the safety and security measures, he said.
Satheesan also blamed the police for its alleged lack of seriousness in dealing with such cases, saying it was apparent from how the Elathur train arson incident of April 2 was handled by the Kerala police.
Stating that if the alleged “carelessness” on the part of the police continued, then things would reach a dangerous situation, he said and demanded a serious probe into the reasons behind recurrence of such train fire incidents.
Chairman of Indian Railways’ Passenger Amenities Committee PK Krishnadas today said such incidents have created fear and anxiety in the general public, especially those travelling by train, and questioned why it was happening “again and again” in Kerala.
The PAC is an organisation under the Railway Ministry that checks whether passenger amenities are provided on trains and at stations.
Krishnadas, also the National Executive Member of the BJP, said that investigative agencies suspect involvement of several people behind the latest incident. Therefore, “People need to understand that it was not a coincidence but a planned conspiracy which all points to a sabotage,” he claimed.
BJP’s Kerala unit president K Surendran in harsh criticism of the LDF government also claimed that there was peace in the state due to efforts of the Centre and its agencies as otherwise the state would have been burnt to ashes by alleged extremist and terror groups.
“Kerala (government) has sacrificed national security for vote bank,” he alleged.
Surendran further claimed that such incidents indicated that religious extremists and terror groups are very active in Kerala, as the state government was allegedly not taking steps to root out them.
“The reason is the huge vote bank that such organisations have,” he alleged.
On April 2 night, three people, including a baby, died in a train arson incident in Kozhikode district, which had shocked the country. On that day, accused Shahrukh
Saifi had set his co-passengers on fire onboard the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express train when it reached Korapuzha bridge near Elathur in Kozhikode.