bbc.co.uk - 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.
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.
Posted December 26, 2007:
Begunkodor Station and the Dancing Woman Phantom
A station in Purulia where no train has stopped in 35 years, apparently because of a phantom woman who dances on the platform or walks along the tracks, might come to life again.
Railway standing committee chairman Basudev Acharya said no passengers boarded trains from Begunkodor, nor did railway officials want to be posted at the station.
“Such an absurd thing shouldn’t be allowed to continue,” the CPM member of Parliament told South Eastern Railway general manager A.K. Jain today and urged him to resume operations at the station.
BSNL officer Pabitra Koi-barta, a resident of Begunkodor village, said word about the station being in the “grip of evil spirits” spread after a woman was run over while crossing the tracks.
“We have heard from elders about the accident. Panic had gripped the area then and people started avoiding the station. There were even reports of people being sucked in towards passing trains and villagers started taking detours to avoid going anywhere near the station,” said Koibarta, 44.
Madan Gope, 65, said a lone railway employee used to man the station when people almost stopped using it.
“The railway employee told villagers he saw a woman in a white sari dancing in the dead of the night. Weeks later, he was dead. It was presumed that he had been killed by the ghost,” said Gope, a resident of nearby Jhalda, 5km away.
The station employee who replaced the dead man apparently stopped coming to work four-five days later.
Gope had tried to take a peek at the dancing woman in white. “I had gone to the station hearing about the woman, but saw nothing,” he said.
Railway officials denied the ghost theory, saying the station became useless after the narrow gauge line was converted into broad gauge “30-35 years ago” and trains started moving fast.
A senior official promised a “feasibility study to find out whether resumption of operations would be commercially viable since the chairman” had asked for it.
Local Congress MLA Nepal Mahato confirmed the fear of “unholy spirits” at Begunkodor and also suggested a remedy. “Quacks can be put in- to service to shoo them away,” he said.
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