‘We’re sorry... Target was goods train’
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Hours before he was named as the prime suspect in the Jnaneswari train disaster, Bapi Mahato told The Indian Express that he was "sorry" for what had happened, and that the targeting of the passenger train was a "mistake".
Speaking to the Express inside the Romroma forests, 8 km from the accident site, after much persuasion, Mahato, a key leader of the PCAPA, said: "We are sorry. We never wanted these innocent civilians to die. Trust me, we targeted the goods train. But somehow, we were fed wrong information that the goods train would cross through this track and we removed pandrol clips from a long stretch. We did not want to harm civilians. There must have been some miscalculation."
However, when the Express contacted him again after he had been named the "mastermind" of Thursday night's carnage by Bengal DGP Bhupinder Singh and a manhunt launched for him, Mahato denied all role in the attack.
Speaking over the cellphone, he said: "We are being framed by the CPM and police. I investigated and came to know that our cadres were not involved in the sabotage. CPM goons, including Arjun Mahato and Lolit Sahoo of Pathuri and Kotushol, are the main persons behind the incident... Everybody knows that a CPM minister held a meeting in Barjudi Primary school just the night before the incident happened."
However, based on intercepts of calls among Maoist activists, police and investigating agencies believe that the Jhargram CPI (Maoist) squad, including 12 cadres led by a 15-year-old boy named Kanu, and the local unit of the PCAPA (People's Committee Against Police Atrocities) removed the pandrol clips and were helped by villagers. The calls also indicate that some gangmen of the Railways were "engaged" forcibly to remove the clips from both the Up and Down tracks. A senior CID official said they had zeroed in on three of the gangmen.