Kolkata: A pro-Maoist activist has been arrested for the sabotage that led to derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express train in West Bengal last month killing 148 people, CBI sources said Tuesday. This is the third arrest in the case.
Hiralal Mahato, an active member of Peoples` Committee Against Police Atrocities` (PCAPA) militant wing - Sidhu Kanhu Gano Milita - was arrested from Rusua village near Jhargram in West Midnapore district Monday night, a police official said.
This is the first arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation after taking over the case from the state police`s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on June 10.
Mahato was produced before the Jhargram Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court and remanded in CBI custody for 10 days. "We have appealed before the court to book him under sections 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)," CBI spokesman Harsh Bhal said.
"The operation to nab him was conducted jointly by CBI sleuths and state police personnel and led by Inspector General of Police (Western Range) Zulfiqar Hassan," Bhal said.
However, defence counsel Kaushik Sinha argued that Mahato was not a pro-Maoist activist. Sinha alleged that Mahato was picked up by the police a week back, and falsely implicated in the Gyaneshwari case.
The Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express ran off the rails May 28 near Jhargram in West Midnapore after a portion of the tracks was sabotaged, allegedly by Maoists. A speeding freight train then rammed into five derailed coaches of the Gyaneshwari, leading to the death of 148 people.
Soon after the accident, the state government had asked the CID to probe the matter. However, following a demand from Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, the central government entrusted the CBI with the job.
Earlier, sleuths of the CID arrested Samir Mahato and Khagen Mahato, members of the militant wing of PCAPA. Both were produced before a lower court in Jhargram town and remanded to CBI custody till June 17.
A senior officer of CBI said they learnt about Hiralal after grilling Samir and Khagen. Hiralal is known to be the right hand man of Bapi Mahato, who masterminded the sabotage.
However, a senior CID officer, on condition of anonymity, said Hiralal was earlier identified by the CID as among those involved in the sabotage but could not be arrested.