Thousands stranded at Bihar railway stations as protests continue (Lead)October 23rd, 2008 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS
Patna, Oct 23 (IANS) Thousands of passengers are stranded at various railway stations in Bihar as trains have been cancelled due to the violent protests in the state, including the ransacking of two stations Thursday, against the attacks on north Indians by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists in Mumbai.About 10,000 passengers have been stranded at Patna railway station since Tuesday. Hundreds of passengers were stranded at several railway stations including Sasaram, Danapur, Bhagalpur and Gaya.
The railways, which were the target of the protesters for the third consecutive day Thursday, cancelled all trains in the Patna-Danapur division till normalcy returns.
“The railways will not take the risk of running trains till proper safety of trains and its passengers is ensured by the state administration,” said A.K. Chandra, chief public relations officer of East Central Railway.
Chandra said that in last two days, the movement of 200 trains was affected due to widespread protests.
”Sixteen pairs of trains originating from Patna have been cancelled, while eight from Danapur were also cancelled,” said Chandra.
Over two dozen long distance trains passing through Patna for Kolkata and Guwahati were diverted due to violent protests, a railway official said.
The stranded passengers were facing a harrowing time here.
Some of them had to join back work and some had to take examinations and job interviews. There were also those wanting to board trains to look for livelihood outside Bihar and some had to go for medical treatment in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and south India.
“It is really painful. I have to appear in an interview in Delhi on Friday morning. I am at the Patna railway station since Tuesday night and there is no train,” said Amitesh Kumar, a student in his mid 20s.
Asif Khan, 34, another passenger stranded here, said that he was waiting for over 24 hours. “There is no information about the train. The plight of most of the passengers stranded is more or less same,” said Khan, who works in Ludhiana in Punjab. He was to join back work Thursday.
“It is horrible to wait for train since Wednesday. I am fed up and restless but cannot return to village as the interview for a job is due on Saturday in Faridabad in Haryana,” lamented Muneshwar Singh.
Satyender Yadav was at the station with his ailing son Mukesh, who has an appointment with doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi Friday.
“We are poor and have already spent over Rs.100 since Tuesday on food. We are praying that the train traffic resumes,” Yadav said.
In fact, Patna railway station has become a temporary home for stranded passengers. “We are spending the entire time at the station as there is no option, and hotels outside the station are costly,” Kumar said.
“The situation is worst here. All the toilets at the railway station are stinking and dirty,” Khan said.
Reports received here said that a mob of protesters torched a police vehicle in Motihari and ransacked the Motihari railway station Thursday morning.
”The protesters have virtually seized the railway station,” a police official said.
Similarly, angry students ransacked Lakhisarai railway station Thursday morning and forcibly stopped some trains.
According to an official at the police headquarters here, early reports suggest that protests were continuing at various places.
Nalanda district is observing a total shutdown Thursday to protest the alleged killing of railway recruitment exam candidate Pawan Kumar in Mumbai by MNS activists.
The students were protesting the attacks by MNS activists on non Maharashtrian candidates, particularly from Bihar, who were in Mumbai Sunday to take a railway recruitment examination.
Youths who returned to Bihar Tuesday, after being assaulted in Mumbai, alleged that a candidate, Pawan Kumar, was killed by MNS activists in Mumbai.
Pawan Kumar, 25, a resident of Bara-Khurd village in Nalanda district, about 100 km from here, was one of the hundreds of students from Bihar appearing for the exam in Maharashtra.
The police at the Patna railway station have filed a first information report (FIR) against Raj Thackeray and his supporters for the assault on the students from Bihar.
“A case was registered on the basis of the statement of the students who returned here Tuesday after being assaulted by MNS activists,” said D.N. Gupta, superintendent of railway police, Patna.
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