Puri station arson: Odisha recommends for NIA help in probe

Bhubaneswar: Unable to reach a definite conclusion due to varying statements of prime suspect Subhas Ramchandran in the investigation of Puri railway station fire, the Odisha government today recommended the Centre to involve National Investigating Agency (NIA) in the ongoing probe.

The recommendation comes exactly two weeks after the incident on November 12 in which five bogies, two each of Nandankanan Express and Tirupati Express and one coach of Puri-Howrah Express were gutted completely.

Investigating officials said Ramchandran was deliberately changing his statements every now and then to divert their focus from the probe. During interrogation he reportedly admitted to have used chemicals used in fireworks to start the fire in the train.

“He and his group members would cut through rexine cover of seats and light the chemicals,” said a police officer on condition of anonymity.

Intelligence officials, who questioned him, said he had admitted to involvement in similar incidents in Hrishikesh-Delhi train at Hardwar and Gaya stations this month. “On the day of the Puri incident, he did a similar act at Kharagpur. He also admitted setting fire to a suburban train in Chennai last year and in Mumbai two months ago,” said an official, adding that most of his claims are yet to be corroborated.

Ramachandran, accused of setting ablaze a series of empty trains in Puri and other places in the country, told police that a terror module was prepared in Mumbai by five terrorists to cause arson attacks in trains that connect to different pilgrim destinations across India.

“Ramachandran said the terrorist outfit had big plans to trigger arson attacks in trains at holy cities. He said he travelled with the five terrorists to Gaya, Haridwar and Kharagpur, where they set ablaze some empty trains this month. Ramachandran then came to Puri alone with an assignment to set fire to trains in the pilgrim town,” a senior police official said.

“Ramachandran said he came in contact with the terrorists during the Chennai train blast in May last year. The terrorists used him as he was in dire need of money. We are in touch with the IB and Mumbai Police to ascertain the identities of the five men,” the officer said.