Agartala: The "Maitree" passenger bus, running between Agartala and Dhaka, was burnt down by an angry mob at Narsindi in central Bangladesh on Friday, officials said here. All the passengers and crew are said to be safe.
According to Bangladesh media reports, the accident was a fallout of a clash between two local political leaders.
The driver and conductor of the bus, owned by government-run Tripura Road Transport Corporation (TRTC), sustained minor injuries while all the 22 passengers and another crew were safe.
Of the 22 passengers, 12 are Indians and remaining Bangladeshi nationals.
"The Dhaka-bound mini bus left here Friday afternoon and attacked by an irate mob at Narsindi. Driver Arun Kumar Das and the contractor were hit by stones, thrown by the mob and the vehicle set ablaze," a transport department official told reporters.
"The bus got largely damaged due to the fire."
He said that immediately after getting the information by phone from the injured driver, Tripura Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda talked to the acting Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Sandeep Chakravorty over phone and requested him to provide assistance to the passengers.
"Indian High Commissioner, after collecting necessary information from the Bangladesh government cabinet secretary, told Panda that all the Indian passengers and crew members of the bus are now safe," the official said.
According to the official, Narsindi district deputy commissioner and police chief are taking care of the Indian passengers and crew members of the bus.
"The incident is an isolated and a stray occurrence, not targeted at the Indian bus or passengers," an official statement of the Tripura government said.
Meanwhile Bangladesh online newspaper bdnews24.com, quoting senior Bangladesh police officials, said that at least 20 Bangladeshi citizens including Narsingdi Mayor Kamruzzaman and some journalists were injured in a clash between the supporters of two local Bangladeshi political leaders.
"The angry locals blocked the Dhaka-Sylhet highway from 3 pm (Bangladesh time) and set the Indian bus and a Bangladeshi truck set ablaze," the bdnews24.com report said.
Narsindi is 50 km north east of Dhaka and 45 km west of Agartala.
Currently India and Bangladesh have been operating Kolkata-Dhaka and Agartala-Dhaka bus services.
The Kolkata-Dhaka bus service, the first direct surface communication between the two neighbouring countries, was initiated in July 1999 while the Agartala-Dhaka bus service was launched in September 2003.
The northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China and the only land route accessible to these states from India is through the `Chicken`s neck corridor` (or Siliguri corridor in West Bengal) and Assam.
But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends making the journey and transportation very difficult, time consuming and expensive.
A large number of people from northeastern states, especially Tripura, goes to Kolkata and other parts of India via Bangladesh.