A year on, Samjhauta terror probe heads nowhere

February 17th, 2008 - 1:30 pm ICT by admin  

By Jaideep Sarin
Diwana (Haryana), Feb 17 (IANS) A year after twin terror blasts on an India-Pakistan peace train left 68 people dead in this north Indian village, gutted remains of the coaches stand mute testimony to the ghastly tragedy. But the probe into the bombing and the resultant fire has reached nowhere. On the night of Feb 18, a burning inferno in two coaches of the Samjhauta Attari special train snuffed out many Indian and Pakistani lives on the outskirts of Diwana, 15 km from the industrial city of Panipat in Haryana.

While the burnt coaches are the only reminders of the terror attack, even these have not been spared. Over the year, vandals have thrived on stealing steel and other parts from the coaches.

The Samjhauta Attari special train from New Delhi links to the peace train - Samjhauta Express - running between Lahore and Attari, the last railway station on the Indian side near Amritsar, twice a week.

In nearby Mehrana village is the final burial place for 29 passengers, mostly Pakistanis, who were charred beyond recognition, and 23 of them remain unidentified to date and are only known by the numbers at their graves. Fate has not been very kind even in death as their graves are in shambles - some of them even caving in.

“A lot of leaders and other people came here and talked of making a memorial and museum in the memory of those who died. Nothing happened. No one has even bothered to look at this (burial place) even once,” Mehrana graveyard caretaker Shakoor Ahmed told IANS.

The high-profile probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the Samjhauta blasts, involving the government railway police (GRP), Haryana Police and a string of central security agencies, has reached nowhere.

“A number of people have been questioned in this incident. There has been a lack of adequate clues. We are still trying to get more clues. Several agencies are involved in the probe. I cannot reveal more than that at this juncture,” railways superintendent of police Bharti Arora said.

Sources in the investigation team told IANS that the probe was heading nowhere. “We just don’t have clues. We picked up so many people and questioned them but reached nowhere. The best we did was to question two people who had made the suitcases in Indore,” one of the investigating officials admitted.

Those behind the incident had triggered the blast on the moving train with timer-linked explosives and plastic bottles containing kerosene to set the coaches on fire instantly.

“We were near the burning coaches within minutes. We tried to open the door of the first coach but the flames were so strong that none of the passengers could come out. The door of the second coach was opened and 12-13 people were brought out. By then the inferno engulfed that coach also completely,” recounted English teacher Surinder Kadian of Diwana village who was among the first ones to rush to the spot.

“Both coaches kept burning for a long time and no one could enter them. The passengers had no chance,” Kadian said.

“People initially came with buckets of water but that did not help. We called up the National Fertilizer Ltd authorities to send a fire brigade that arrived in some time. By then, the damage had been done,” recalled railway employee Babu Lal Meena who had flagged the train on its journey and saw the coaches catch fire before his own eyes.

The police had detained a drunk man, Mohammed Usman, from the spot after the blast as he moved under suspicious circumstances near one of the timer-fitted suitcases that had not exploded on the train and had fallen out on the tracks.

“The coaches were in a bad shape. The bodies were completely charred. The incident still haunts us,” said social activist Mulk Raj Bhatla who, with others, had helped authorities get the charred bodies out of the train.

Muslim leaders in the vicinity of the blast site said that several people were questioned in the aftermath of the blast but nothing was found.

“I was picked up and grilled by the security agencies but nothing was found,” Matloof Ahmed Safi said.

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