Flagging-off of the Agartala-Khongsang Jan Shatabdi Express by President Droupadi Murmu on Thursday is a tribute to the 30-odd Indian Army Terriers killed in a landslide in Manipur’s Tupul in June this year, the Army believes. The Agartala-Khongsang stretch may be a mere 54-km stretch but it is a huge step towards connecting India’s northeastern states with the rest of the country. This line will extend till Imphal, the capital of Manipur. It took India 75 years after Independence to get Manipur into the country’s railway map.
Tupul, where troops of the Territorial Army (Terriers) laid down their lives in June, is about 50 km from Imphal. Their job was to protect railway engineers, contractors and labourers from militants who delayed this project through wanton killings and extortion attempts. These are the same outfits that claim they are fighting for development of the region. Indian Army Terriers were also deployed while work was on between Agartala and Khongsang. It was only after the state police and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel were unable to curb the militancy that the Indian Railways sought help from the Army.
“Thanks to the brave Terriers, the stretch between Agartala and Khongsang has been completed and people from villages like Oinamlong, Kambiron and Thingou are looking forward to cover the 300 km (between Agartala and Khongsang) in relative comfort in barely seven hours. The road distance is 600 km and it takes nearly 19 hours to cover. Khongsang is about 56 km from Imphal and the entire stretch is expected to be commissioned in December 2023,” an Indian Army official said.
Till now, the stretch has 19 tunnels and 9 major bridges. It passes through the picturesque valleys of Barak and Makru. It will certainly attract tourists and tourism can do wonders for states where other industries can’t be set up due to various reasons such as ecological concerns.
“Tupul is barely 6 km from Khongsang. Terriers of the 107 Territorial Army Battalion, attached to the 11 Gorkha Rifles were deployed to provide security to railway personnel, contractors and their workers. In the past, there have been killings, kidnappings and extortion attempts by militants. Contractors and workmen fled the area in fear till our Terriers came in. Since their induction, no militant has dared to attack the railway project. The June 30 incident was unfortunate. Apart from our jawans, several civilians also lost their lives in the landslide. The only way to pay tribute to them is to complete the project on time. This will be egg on the face of organisations inimical to development of the region,” another officer said.