A coach of an express train which halted at the Kannur railway station in Kerala caught fire in the small hours of Thursday, resulting in the opposition Congress and the BJP slamming the ruling Left government in the state over the incident.
The fire broke out after all the passengers had deboarded and therefore no one was injured.
While the Congress said that the government and the police were not dealing with such matters seriously, and demanded a proper probe into the reasons behind such incidents, the BJP accused the ruling Left of encouraging and supporting religious extremists and terror groups as part of their alleged vote bank politics. 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.
The train was standing stationary on a track several metres away from the platform and a Bharat Petroleum fuel depot when it caught fire at around 1.30 am, a fire rescue officer said. On April 2 night, three people, including a baby, died and nine persons suffered burns when a passenger poured petrol on some passengers and set fire near Elathur in Kozhikode district, in an incident that shocked the country.
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Chairman of Indian Railways’ Passenger Amenities Committee (PAC) P K Krishnadas on Thursday 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 persons behind the latest incident.
Therefore, ”people need to understand that it was not a coincidence but a planned conspiracy which all points to a coup,” he claimed. Central agencies reportedly arrived at the scene of the fire for evidence collection within a few hours of the incident. Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan said that such incidents have 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.
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 demanded a serious probe into the reasons behind recurrence of such train fire incidents. Surendran did not mince words in his criticism of the Left government in the wake of the latest train fire incident. The BJP state president 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 such organisations.
”The reason is the huge vote bank that such organisations have,” he alleged. He also claimed that despite the ban on PFI, its sleeper cells were active in the state as the ruling Left government was not willing to take strict action against them. Surendran also alleged that both the Left and Congress-ally Indian Union Muslim League were competing with each to induct PFI leaders and workers.
Earlier in the day, Railway police said it was yet to be determined whether sabotage was the cause of the fire or it was due to some electrical fault. A forensic investigation would determine that, it said. An officer from Kannur Fire and Rescue Station said they received information about the incident at around 1.30 am and when they reached the site, one of the coaches was completely engulfed in flames.
Visuals of the incident aired on TV channels showed huge flames coming out from the windows of the coach with thick plumes of smoke rising into the air.
Four fire tenders were deployed in fire-fighting operations and the flames were extinguished by around 3.15 AM, the fire rescue officer said. He said that it was the third coach from the back which had caught fire. In the April 2 incident, 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.