NIA-IB probe likely in all rail ‘mishaps’

The Asian Age.  | Rajnish Sharma

India, All India

The investigation would be conducted largely to ascertain if there was any sabotage by subversive elements.

A 5-member team of NIA visits the Hirakhand Express mishap site at Kuneru, Andhra Pradesh.

New Delhi: Concerned over intelligence inputs that Pakistan’s spy agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is planning to target India’s rail network, the Centre is expected to make a multi-agency probe — headed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) — mandatory in all train accidents or mishaps.

The investigation would be conducted largely to ascertain if there was any sabotage by subversive elements.

On Thursday itself, sabotage attempts were detected in Malda and Dhanbad divisions by alert railway staff in time, thereby averting major derailments, said a senior Railway ministry official.

Top intelligence sources said they have already conveyed to the government that ever since the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes across the Line of Control in September last year targeting militant training camps, the ISI wants to hit back, and views the railway network as a relatively “soft target.’’

“Investigations led by the NIA and the IB into incidents of train mishaps will clearly establish whether there is any sabotage or conspiracy by terror elements. If sabotage angle gets confirmed, a detailed investigation by these agencies can help track down and neutralise such terror modules. We are also strengthening our intelligence network on the specific issue of how the ISI plans to hit the rail network,’’ a senior intelligence official said.

The issue of making an NIA and IB probe mandatory into cases of train accidents is expected to be discussed by the cabinet committee on security to have a wider deliberation on the subject within the government.

“With increasing threat of terror activities by the ISI, the government is of the opinion that instead of getting the NIA involved on a case-to-case basis in train mishaps, there should be a compulsory probe in all incidents,’’ the official said.

Moti Paswan, arrested recently by the Bihar police, had disclosed during custodial interrogation that he had been paid by ISI operatives to plant explosives on the Indore-Patna Express train near Kanpur in November last year in which 150 people had died.

The Union home ministry has asked for a detailed report from the external intelligence agency, Research & Analysis Wing, which suspects some Nepal and Dubai-based ISI modules to be involved in the conspiracy to attack India’s rail network.

The name of one Shamshul Hodi, a Dubai-based ISI sympathiser, has already come up in course of information gathered by intelligence agencies. It is suspected that Moti Paswan and two of his associates were paid `30 lakh through an ISI agent in Nepal, Brajesh Giri, for the Kanpur incident.

The NIA has already formally taken over investigations into the train derailments in Kanpur and Andhra Pradesh’s Kuneru area. A team of senior officers from the agency has conducted an inspection of the site in Vizianagaram near Kuneru where Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express went off tracks to ascertain if it was an “act of terror” as the railway suspected sabotage. A total of 39 people were killed in the accident that took place on Saturday.