(Click on [ID:nSGE64R04G] for a Q+A on the Maoists)
By Parth Sanyal
SARDIHA,India May 29 Indian police began
searching for Maoists rebels on Saturday believed responsible
for sabotaging a crowded passenger train, as rescuers continued
pulling bodies from the wreckage.
The passenger train in eastern India derailed and smashed
into an oncoming goods train on Friday, killing 98 people and
injuring at least 200. The death toll is expected to rise.
"We have identified the people who are behind the incident.
These are Maoists and we are trying to trace them and bring
them to justice," said Manoj Verma, a senior police official.
The crash site in West Bengal state is in a Maoist
stronghold and police said some 150 rebels had been camping in
the crash area for the past few days.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist
insurgency as India's biggest internal security challenge.
Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of the
poor and landless and want to overthrow the government, have
stepped up attacks in recent months. More than 1,000 attacks
were recorded in 2009 and 600 people were killed.
The Maoists number some 20,000 combatants, with 6,000-8,000
hardcore fighters, and regularly attack railway lines and
factories, aiming to cripple economic activity.
With the rebels controlling vast swathes of mineral-rich
areas, the government has often struggled to transport coal to
power and steel firms. The rebels extort about $300 million
from companies in India every year to fund their movement
The latest attack will put further pressure on the Congress
party-led government to bring in the military to tackle the
four-decade-long insurgency across eastern and central India.
Rescuers continued to prise open mangled train coaches on
Saturday to remove more bodies from the wreckage.
"The toll has gone up to 98. We are pulling out more
bodies," N.S. Nigam, a senior local government official told
"At the moment, there is another compartment, which we need
to cut open. There are more bodies inside and the work will go
on till evening," he said.
The cause of the derailment remains unclear. Some railway
officials initially said a bomb had derailed the passenger
train, but police said they were also looking at other possible
sabotage methods, such as the removal of track "fish plates".
Railway officials will begin their investigation into the
accident on Monday after all the bodies are recovered.
The Maoists started their campaign in 1967 armed with bows
and arrows and stolen rifles, but the government says they now
buy high-powered weapons from Chinese smugglers and are in
touch with other militant groups in India.
(Additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar in NEW DELHI; Writing
by Devidutta Tripathy; editing by Michael Perry and Bill