Gun, convoy shield for trains in hills

Guwahati, April 17 : Dispur has chalked out a security plan to counter strikes by insurgents in Assam’s twin hill districts. It will set up light machine gun posts on trains running in North Cachar Hills and run passenger trains in convoys with pilot engines from Dimapur to Lumding.
The security arrangement follows four attacks by militant on trains in the twin hill districts of NC Hills and Karbi Anglong in the past week.
A highly placed source today said goods trains having LMG posts would soon start plying along the vulnerable Badarpur-Lumding route in NC Hills till the situation becomes normal.
To start with, each train will have two posts, one at the front and the other at the rear, manned by at least 10 security personnel. These posts will be set up in open wagons, giving a wider vision of the surroundings and more leg space to security personnel who will be protected by sandbags.
“It is an arrangement similar to the one used during a war to cope with sudden enemy fire. It will be tried first on goods trains and then on passenger trains. This has been necessitated as security personnel inside a compartment were ineffective in checking such attacks because of hindered vision. It is an old army proposal for the vulnerable NC Hills terrain,” the source said.
Railway sources said the police had placed a requisition for the wagons and it was trying to meet it.
Hoping that the new measure would succeed, the source said an LMG can hit a target 500 metres away while the AK series rifles and SLRs generally used by rebels can cover a distance of 100 to 200 metres.
With terror on trains frequently haunting the twin hill districts, the railways had also introduced bullet-proof engines and distributed bullet-proof jackets among security personnel and drivers to instil confidence in them for the smooth running of trains.
But the rebels continued to attack with impunity, disrupting train schedules and even leading to cancellations.
On April 10, suspected militants of the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Gorlosa) sprayed the Badarpur-Lumding Barak Valley Express with bullets in NC Hills district, killing one and injuring 17. On April 11, the outfit attacked a goods train in the district, killing two and injuring one.
On April 12, suspected Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front militants triggered two blasts on the Howrah-Dibrugarh Kamrup Express route in Karbi Anglong. While the train reached Diphu safely, the engine of the special security train, which is run ahead of a passenger train, was derailed by the second blast. The back-to-back attacks in the twin districts saw the NF Railway reschedule and cancel passenger trains for a few days.
On Monday, Dispur ordered resumption of train services after a high-level review by the chief secretary here. The meeting was attended by senior officials of the CRPF, BSF, railways, army, police and Intelligence.
The participants tried to find ways to neutralise the attacks by Dimasa and Karbi rebels to ensure smooth running of trains in the twin hill districts and the smooth conduct of elections.
It was decided that the army would be used for track domination (to sanitise and provide security cover to tracks) in the two districts.
The meeting also approved the railway’s proposal to run passenger trains in a convoy at an interval of 15 minutes between Lumding and Dimapur after the providential escape of the Howrah-Dibrugarh Kamrup Express on Sunday night. It also decided to run security pilot and advance pilot engines ahead of the convoy.

“The convoy plan was first tried on Monday night. There will be some inconvenience to the commuters, but it is for their safety and also makes a lot of sense,” the source said.
An attempt was made to run a goods train in NC Hills yesterday, but it had to be aborted following firing by DHD (J) rebels near Migrendisa railway station, 19km from Haflong town around noon.