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Samjhauta blasts: An eyewitness account

By Onkar Singh in Panipat
February 19, 2007 20:39 IST
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Retired Subedar Karan Singh Sarpanch of Siva village was sleeping in his residence when his mobile phone rang. It was a call from a villager who told him that there Samjhauta Express was on fire and asked him to rush to the place.

"I asked my neighbour to come along. As we rushed many more villagers joined us. This was around 12.30 am. We took buckets of water and tried to douse the bogies' fire. Soon the administration swung into action. The deputy commissioner of Panipat, the SSP, senior railway officials and the fire brigade arrived on the scene.

"It took us one and a half hour toput out the fire," Karan Singh told as hordes of villagers sat on charpais at gate number 49 where the burning train had come to a stop.

"Cries of help could be heard from all sides of the train. Though the affected bogies were 10th and 11th from the engine but those in the reserved compartments also were petrified. "We could not touch the gates till the heat died down and it took time. Once we went in it was just a horrorfic sight. At least sixteen people were burnt to death on the gates of bogie no 11.

"Perhaps they were trying to escape but could not open the door. The bodies had been burnt beyond recognition. Parts of the bodies fell apart when we tried to lift them. The bangles, the utensils lay scattered all around. The body of a 3-year-old child was found under the rubble," he said as he talked in between to people in the village directing them to cook food for the policemen and others on duty who had not eaten throughout the day.

Singh denied having heard any blast. "The explosions must have been heard by the gangman on duty at gate no 47 who informed the station master of Deewana Vinod Gupta that two bogies of Samjhauta express had caught fire due to explosions. Gupta in turn asked the Gangman Ashok Kumar at gate 49 not to allow the train to move and stop it," Subedar said.

He complimented the district administration for mounting a fine rescue operation in the shortest possible time and also taking a prompt decision to detect the last five bogies of the train.

During the search operations conducted with the help of sniffer dogs two suitcases with live bombs were found. While one caught fire while being defused the other was taken into police custody.

"Railway minister Laluji came to meet us and thanked the villagers for their work. He has promised to provide some money for the village so we can put it to good use," Karan Singh said.

Head constable Suresh Kumar of Railway Police was on duty at Panipat railway station when he got a call from Deewana station master that Samjhauta Express had caught fire. He was at gate no 49 by 12.15 am. "When I came the two bogies were on fire. Nobody could go near it and villagers who arrived later brought water from pond nearby and threw it on the train bogies.

"At around 1.30 am we found two more suitcases with live bombs. A drunkard man was caught and he told the police that he had kicked the suitcase as he felt suspicious about the contents. The man is still under detention," he said.

Whistleblower gangman Pawan and the station master Vinod Gupta could not be contacted for their version of the story.

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Onkar Singh in Panipat

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