KOCHI: The wild goose chase to bag the graffiti artists who defaced a Kochi Metro train is on even as every route the investigating team takes hits a dead end. But no one seems to have an answer to the billion-dollar question of whether Kochi Metro has learnt a lesson and plugged the loopholes in its security system.
On May 22, some unidentified persons entered the Muttom metro yard in Kochi by breaking the barbed fences and painting ‘Burn Play’ and ‘First Hit Kochi’ on the coaches of a parked metro train.
“Kochi Metro’s claim of having a ‘foolproof’ security blanket got ‘burnt’ by the graffiti artists,” said Ebenser Chullikkatt, a member of Kochi Metro Passengers Forum (a Facebook group). He said the incident turned the spotlight on the lax security measures at Kochi Metro. “Instead of beefing up security at its Muttam yard and at all the stations on the 25-km stretch, the police officers are running around,” he said.
Last week, a team from the Kochi Metro police station travelled to Ahmedabad and grilled Italians Cudini Gianluca, 24, Baldo Sacha, 29, Starinieri Daniele, 21, and Capecchi Paolo, 27, who were arrested by the Gujarat Crime Branch for trespassing into a Metro yard and painting graffiti in Ahmedabad. However, the Kochi police team could not find any evidence to link them with the Muttam incident that took place in May this year.
“We asked the Italians whether they were a part of an international movement or a gang, but they denied it,” said an officer who travelled to Ahmedabad. “We suspect it might be because admitting to it would lead to questions about other gang members. They claim Ahmedabad was their first time. But we suspect they might have travelled across the globe and indulged in such activities.”
Ebenser said: “The question is not whether they have done it or are engaged in such activities all over the world. The question that Kochi Metro officials have to answer is how could a group of people enter an apparently ‘very secure’ facility, paint graffiti (the design points to the amount of time: Possibly 2-3 hours) and then melt into the night without being detected?”
After the incident, the police collected information about the rail hoons. According to the police, even though similar acts of painting graffiti on trains are reported across India, arrests were made in only very few cases. In Kerala, there were two incidents in Palakkad and Shoranur railway stations where graffiti were drawn on train bogies in 2016.
“In the case reported at Shoranur and Palakkad, the name of Rail Hoons was written along with the graffiti. The graffiti drawn on the trains in Shoranur was similar to the painting made at Kochi Metro. In all these incidents, miscreants trespassed into railway stations and yards to make graffiti. But we don’t know whether the persons behind the incident have any direct link to the international group Rail Hoons.
There are possibilities that people behind are fans or followers of Rail Hoon’s group,” the officer said. After the incident, Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) enhanced the security system at Muttom yard. The only evidence the police could gather is the CCTV footage at the Metro yard which could not help the police trace the accused persons. Even though police collected information about travellers who reached Kochi in May, the investigation in this regard could not see a breakthrough.
Even cyber experts were called in to patrol social media to trace the suspect. “The CCTV camera was placed at such an angle that it captures only a vague image of the suspect passing through the area. That video did not help in zeroing the accused. We will keep the probe on for more time. The authorities have taken necessary steps so that such an incident doesn’t happen again,” the police officer said.“The police say even the CCTV camera couldn’t give them a clue! What if it was not graffiti but a bomb? This is a wake-up call,” said Ebenser.