| The gutted train at Dhamara Ghat station on Monday. Picture by Mohan Mahato |
For Mahisi resident Ashish Choudhary, a journey from Saharsa to Patna will be forever engraved in his memory. A recollection he would love to forget though.
Choudhary was one of the passengers on the ill-fated 12567 Rajya Rani Express that had started from Saharsa around 7.45am on Monday. “The train got delayed by around 45 minutes. This proved fatal for the kanwariyas,” said the middle-aged man, who was still in shock when The Telegraph contacted him around 5.15pm on Monday.
Choudhary had boarded the train from Saharsa with the hope of taking the Sampoorna Kranti Express to New Delhi from Patna that leaves in the afternoon.
A witness to the run-over horror, Choudhary felt that the mishap could have been averted had the express started on time. “I had to leave for my workplace in New Delhi on Monday. But after this incident, I don’t even think I will be able reach Patna.”
The resident of Mahisi, around 17km from Saharsa, from where he had boarded the train on Monday morning, was in one of the general compartments of Rajya Rani. “The train leaves Saharsa at 7am. But on Monday, it was delayed by 45 minutes. This proved fatal for the devotees. Had the train left Saharsa on time, the timing of the other two passenger trains — Samastipur-Saharsa Passenger and Dauram Madhepura-Samastipur Passenger — would not have collided. This would have saved many souls,” said Choudhary. Later he took a tractor to Khagaria, after a 7-km walk along the railway tracks from the mishap site at Dhamara Ghat station.
A human resource officer with New Delhi-based Korus Engineering Solution Private Limited, Choudhary dreaded to narrate what he had seen on the tracks after the express hit the devotees.
“After a delay of 45 minutes when the train left the Saharsa station, I hoped to reach Patna by 11.30am. But fate had it otherwise. After a run of around 55 minutes, we felt a jolt. Moments later, more jolts followed. We didn’t panic because it’s normal for a fast train. Around 8.50am the train came to a sudden halt with a thud. It was clear that the driver had slammed the emergency brakes. “As we were sitting, a stone hit one of the windows around 9.10am. All of a sudden it was raining stones. Passengers brought down the windowpanes, clueless about what could have happened. Many even thought it to be a Maoist attack. Women in the compartment started screaming. Children were pushed underneath the seats. By this time we were sure that we were under some kind of attack but from whom? Around 10 minutes later, the stone pelting stopped. Seven to eight people entered the compartment and started abusing us. On being asked what was wrong, one of them shot back: ‘Come out and see what has happened. Don’t keep sitting here like a king’.
According to Choudhary, he shouldn’t have got down as the “sight was so gory that it would haunt him all his life”.
“From a distance of around 400m, only bodies — mostly women and children — could be seen lying on the tracks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A large group of people had caught hold of a person and were beating him black and blue. I later realised he was the driver of the train. A few bodies were caught between the wheels too,” he said, adding, it was a scene no human should have seen.