September 10, 2002: 200 killed as superfast Kolkata-Mumbai train plunges into a river

If you want to show the world you matter, carry out a really big terrorist attack.

BIHAR STATE, INDIA — Have I already mentioned that I LOVE taking the train? If so, I apologise for my repetitiveness. When I used to work for CSIS and I had to go to either Toronto or Montreal I ALWAYS took the train. The fact that I was allowed to travel in business class (MUCH cheaper than flying!) made the trip that much more enjoyable.

The voyage was great. I sat back, read, wrote, or just watched the countryside go by. Nice meal, followed by a scotch: all was right with my world! And, no security to go through like at an airport. What was not to like?

Trains are also very big machines that are very hard to budge. They travel in straight lines along hardened steel and it is rare to hear of accidents (yes, they occur but very infrequently). You see, it is actually harder than it sounds to derail a train. You have to know what you are doing.

Not me, of course, but I recognise the service!

On this day in 2002

But on this day in 2002 that is exactly what did happen in northeastern India. Somewhere between 130 and 200 people were killed and 150 injured when the superfast Kolkata-Mumbai train plunged into a river near Rafinganj in Bihar State. The train was carrying 535 passengers and 70 railway staff when it derailed as it was chugging along at a speed of 130 kph.

It lasted a couple of minutes. When it was over, I realised my wife and children had been crushed to death.

Passenger testimony

Naxalite terrorists were blamed for the attack. The Naxalites are a Maoist group seeking to overthrow the Indian government in a peasant-led revolution. They have been behind a lot of attacks in that country. This was a big one for these violent actors.

None of this makes me want to stop taking the train. Then again, we don’t have Maoist groups derailing express trains on the Ottawa-Toronto express.

Phil Gurski

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