Nov. 12: Students in Bihar today attacked two Guwahati-bound trains in a series of raids since yesterday to retaliate against the alleged assault of candidates from the state who had gone to Assam for a railway recruitment test.
The Mahananda Express and the Brahmaputra Mail were stopped this morning at Jamalpur station, where armed students barged into the compartments, thrashed around 200 passengers and looted their luggage. The passengers complained no one came to their rescue during the hour-long ordeal.
Barely 15 km before Jamalpur, the Mahananda Express had been held up at Munger station, where irate youths went on a looting spree, said I.P. Singh, a railway officer. But the mob was resisted by a group of army jawans travelling on the train till the Railway Protection Force (RPF) intervened and brought the situation under control.
Eastern Railway said the Brahmaputra Mail and the Sealdah-Varanasi Express were also stopped between Ratanpur and Jamalpur by students who came to blows with the passengers.
Railway authorities diverted the Guwahati-bound trains through Malda to avoid further trouble. They usually approach New Jalpaiguri via Katihar in Bihar.
The trains pulled into Malda station one after another around 4.45 pm, where railway doctors tended to about 30 injured persons on the platform. The trains continued their journey later with escorts.
Alarmed by the spate of attacks, the Rabri Devi government today promised armed escorts for trains passing through the state, said Nilmani, IG (administration). The general manager of East-Central Railway, R.S. Varshney, announced that two RPF companies would camp in Katihar, the town from where the protests spread.
Railway minister Nitish Kumar said in Patna the students who could not participate in examinations for Group-D posts in Northeast Frontier Railway can take the test again, to be held under the Katihar division.
On November 9, around 50 students from Bihar were allegedly denied entry to the examination halls in Guwahati and Jorhat and assaulted.
“We were treated like foreigners. Any argument on our part prompted them to slap us,” said Ashoke Singh, a 21-year-old graduate from Katihar. When the students returned with their tales of woe, people in Katihar decided to go on a “retaliatory rampage”, said Singh.
Hundreds of students thronged Katihar station yesterday, raiding trains from the Northeast and assaulting passengers. After police arrived, they clashed with the forces and set a railway godown on fire. Soon the violence spread to the town and the police had to fire four rounds to disperse the agitators.
A brutal reprisal was carried out in Bhagalpur, too. Ten persons had to be hospitalised in Jamalpur yesterday after students raided the Brahmaputra Mail.
At Malda, a stunned Hemanta Roy, a teacher returning to Darjeeling from Dehradun, sat on a bench, a blood-streaked bandage around his head. “The shouting youths suddenly stormed into our AC coach and began lashing us with leather belts, not even sparing the women and even tore off their clothes. They snatched my gold chain and wallet and misbehaved with my wife,” Roy said.
He tried to reason with the youths that he and the others were not Assamese, but to no avail.
A students’ organisation in Assam today sought Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s intervention to end the “systematic deprivation” of Assamese youths by the railways.
In a letter faxed to Vajpayee, they said that “an overwhelming number of candidates who have been called for recruitment (in Assam) in over 1,600 number of vacancies in the D-Group are from Bihar”.