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'Haunted' Indian station reopens

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Begunkodor station - 2008
Begunkodor station lay deserted for 47 years after reports of an apparition

A Indian railway station which was abandoned for 42 years because of fears that it was haunted has reopened in the eastern state of West Bengal.

Locals and railway workers say they lived in fear of a female phantom who frequented Begunkodor 260km (161 miles) from the state capital, Calcutta.

In 1967, a railway worker is said to have died days after he saw a "woman ghost" draped in a white sari.

Officials say the story was made up to avoid postings at the remote station.

They argue that it was primarily railway employees who expressed fears about the "woman ghost" at Begunkodor.

"Soon all railway employees fled Begunkodor and trains stopped stopping there. It made life very difficult for locals," said Basudeb Acharya, former chairman of the parliament's standing committee on railways.

Mr Acharya says employees "cooked up the ghost story " to avoid a posting at such a remote station.

Celebrations

Begunkodor is 43km (26 miles) from the district headquarters in Purulia, the westernmost district of West Bengal. Purulia is home to the Santhal tribe and is also a Maoist stronghold.

On Tuesday, the Ranchi-Hatia express stopped at Begunkodor, the first train to draw into the station for 42 years.

India's railway minister Mamata Banerji has dismissed all reports of an apparition.

When she announced new trains for West Bengal she wanted the Ranchi-Hatia Express to stop at Begunkodor because locals had pleaded with her to reopen the station during the election campaign in May.

"I don't believe in ghosts. It is all man-made," Mamata Banerji is reported to have told railway officials when the new trains were being scheduled.

The reopening of the station became "an event for local celebrations", according to railway commercial inspector, Dilip Kumar Ghosh.

He said people gathered in large numbers and "danced in joy" as the train arrived.

"I have never seen a train stop here since I have grown up," said Begunkodor resident Govinda Mahato.



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