Railways in the Northeast lack adequate security – 2 Women found dead in Train toilets over last 36 hours

The sensational back to back murder of two women on moving train has created ripples in the minds of the people about the security arrangements of Railways in trains. 

GUWAHATI / DIBRUGARH: Two women were found murdered in the lavatories of trains plying on the same railway route in Assam over the last 36 hours. Similarities in modus operandi have led police to suspect that the same person may be responsible for both the killings.

In the first incident, a 21-year-old student of the Assam Agricultural University was found strangled in the toilet of a compartment reserved for differently abled people on the New Tinsukia-Rangiya Express on Tuesday morning. Her body was found by a sweeper at Simaluguri station around 9.15 am, barely 20 minutes after she had boarded the train from Sivasagar.

The victim was on her way to Golaghat to meet her uncle.

According to the woman’s mother, who had dropped her off at the Sivasagar railway station, she was carrying Rs 10,000 to buy a mobile phone. “The marks on the victim’s neck suggest that she was strangled. She bled from the nose too,” a railway police officer said on the condition of anonymity.

Significantly, a gamosa — a traditional Assamese handwoven towel — was recovered from the toilet. As the compartment was empty, there were no witnesses to the crime.

The woman, incidentally, hailed from Bihar. “Although rape looks unlikely as her clothes were intact, we are awaiting the autopsy report,” the source said.

Simaluguri railway station does not have any CCTV cameras that can help the police in their investigation.

The second incident, which occurred the very next day, bore glaring similarities with the previous one. According to railway police, the body of a 48-year-old woman was recovered from the toilet of a compartment reserved for differently abled people on the Awadh-Assam Express at Jorhat’s Mariani Junction around 2.15 pm on Wednesday.

Police said the victim, who also hailed from Bihar, had boarded the train from Dibrugarh in upper Assam. The train left Dibrugarh station at 9.36 am and arrived at Mariani Junction around 2.05 pm. “The woman had probably been dead for over an hour before her body was discovered by another passenger,” a railway police officer said.

In this case too, a gamosa was recovered from the toilet.

“The compartment for differently abled passengers is usually empty. We do not suspect rape as of now; this looks like a case of murder,” the officer said. There were no known eyewitnesses to the crime, and Mariani Junction also lacks CCTV cameras.

The woman, who lived in Dibrugarh with her family, was travelling to Bihar.

Simaluguri is located 54 km from Mariani, and falls on the same railway route. The officer pointed at the similarities between the two cases to indicate that the same person may be behind both the killings. “Both the victims were Hindi-speakers, and happened to be strangled in train lavatories. Leaving the gamosas behind must have been the culprit’s way of sending a message, besides inflaming tempers,” he said.

Assam director general of police Kuladhar Saikia has reportedly constituted a special investigation team to probe the murders.

“Two people have been murdered and there are similarities in both the cases,” R Chandranathan, special director general of police, Railways, said, adding all efforts are on to nab the killers. “We have deployed 11 quick response teams all across the state to prevent such incidents.”

During investigation in new Dibrugarh railway station located at Banipur, it has come to light that the CCTV cameras installed in the railway station were not properly functioning.

A total of seven CCTV cameras were installed in Dibrugarh Banipur railway station and out of seven, five are working but there is no provision of recording.

When spoke to one of the sub-inspectors of Railway Protection Force (RPF) in Dibrugarh Banipur Railway station it has came to light that NFR lacks in the security of the passengers.

“Out of seven CCTV cameras five are functioning but there was no recording facilities. Signalling and telecom department which have tied up with Railways look after the maintenance of the CCTV cameras. The CCTV cameras were installed here but they are of no use,” an RPF official said.

He added, “There is a shortage of manpower in RPF in Dibrugarh. We have strength of 50 personnel including one inspector and two sub inspector and it is difficult for us to keep tab on every activities. Earlier in Dibrugarh there was RPF battalion because of election in the Northern states, the RPF battalion was moved and deployed in the other railway station of the Northeast.

“Government Railway Police (GRP) should be deployed in Banipur Railway station because it is very difficult for us to deal with crime related cases. GRP can deal with law and order cases, we are actually meant for protection of Railways.”

He said they need at least hundred staff in Dibrugarh Banipur Railway station.

“From Dibrugarh we escort up to Mariani and regular escorting has been going on. We lacks in manpower. We have written to deploy GRP to state government but till date GRP was not deployed in the station. A barrack was built and a seven-member team have come but till date they are not deployed in the station,” an RPF official said.

According to reports, there was a huge shortage of manpower in NF Railway and they are doing nothing to for the security of the passengers.

According to source, in trains security had been one of the concerned areas because in recent past many such crimes took place in trains.

Meanwhile, crime against women has been rising rapidly in Assam and now the miscreants targeting them in trains. In a span of 24- hours two women were murdered in a same manner in train.

“Railways is doing nothing for the safety of women. Women’s are not safe in trains and the railway authorities have failed to provide security to women’s in trains. Security is one of the key areas where the Railways should give top most priority but they are doing nothing,” said Umakanta Gogoi, a rail passenger.

Station Superintendent B.M. Kachari was not available for comments.