Why ISI’s role is being suspected in Kanpur train tragedy

Shantanu Mukharji
Shantanu MukharjiJan 20, 2017 | 14:01

Why ISI’s role is being suspected in Kanpur train tragedy

Security agencies have revealed that it was none other than the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of Pakistan which masterminded the sabotage of Indore Express near Kanpur on November 20 last year, claiming numerous innocent lives.

Hitherto, the tragedy was seen as a routine rail mishap with no terror angle. The National Investigation Agency is vigorously probing the case, joining pieces together, collaborating with the police and different railway outfits. It is expected that the interrogation of suspects will shed light on the sabotage, planning, funding and the elements involved.


The most disturbing feature of the sabotage, apart from the complicity of the ISI, is the direct involvement of elements from Nepal with links to Dubai and of course Pakistan, as well as the use of counterfeit currency to meet their agenda.

The villains of the plan are Shamshul Huda, a Dubai-based Nepali national who maintained touch with Sheikh Shafi, a Pakistani forger of currency based in Karachi and the linchpin behind circulation of Foreign Indian Currency Notes (FICN). Also in the team are Zubair and Zia-Ul, both arrested by the Delhi Police's special cell on January 18. 

From the developments so far, we see the ISI footprint in the running of covert operations - a fake travel agency was run by the outfit for regular recruitment of agents for subversive activities in India.

Arrests of Zia-Ul and Zubair led to the arrest of one Moti Paswan, who was the person responsible for targeting the Indore Express and killing nearly 150 people. Some allege that Moti has a record of being a Maoist.

If this is true, then an unholy link between the Maoists (active in Bihar) and Pakistan's ISI has been established, which is a perilous combination. It is now emerging that one Brijesh Giri is also an ISI recruit and paid Rs 3 lakh to sub-agents for causing the "accident" near Kanpur.


While a clearer picture is expected to surface after the NIA progresses with its probe, prima facie, it looks clear that the ISI is at work and on its payroll are mercenaries cutting across religious and sectarian lines.

Counterfeit currency is also being used by the ISI.

Delving into the antecedents of those involved, it is seen that Shamshul Huda moved to Dubai in 2015 and was immediately roped in by the money laundering mafia for nefarious deals focusing on India. His affiliate, Brijesh, had earlier eliminated Deepak and Arun in Nepal and both were originally from Bihar's East Champaran district. They were killed on the pretext of some flawed business deal. It would therefore appear that those involved are hardened criminals, aptly suited to carry out the ISI's designs.

Those recruited from within India have been indoctrinated very effectively and insiders give out that many were and are sympathisers of the now banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). 

It is also believed that they wanted to seek revenge for the killings of SIMI activists in the recent jail break in Bhopal. This points to a deep commitment and hateful vengeance.

We do not know yet the extent of the ISI network active in India to harm Indian facilities and interests. Targeting the Indore Express may have been a small part of a bigger blueprint. That needs to be looked into and thoroughly.


Targeting the Indian Railways' network that criss-crosses thousands of miles across the country remains an easy assignment for ISI saboteurs. One hit would mean multiple casualties and maximum publicity. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) does not have any professional intelligence apparatus, nor does it seem to have a coordination mechanism in place to liaise with other security agencies and keep the rail tracks safe. Everything looks so temporary.

It's time to strengthen rail security, now that the ISI has come to the fore.

It's doubtful that forensics were at all used at the "accident" site to collect vital clues which would lead to the theory of sabotage. Only "run-of-the-mill" exercises were followed, such as removal of bodies and of the injured, apart from instituting a commission of inquiry.

All this is routine. What is needed is detailed attention backed with scientific methods and importantly, with active involvement of all agencies concerned for collaborative brainstorming.

Failing which, we will keep harping on the ISI hand without getting to the bottom of the crime and continue to get hit again and again.

Last updated: January 20, 2017 | 14:01
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