|The smashed windscreen of the Gede local at Sealdah station. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, Feb. 13: Thousands of passengers remained stranded at Sealdah station till midnight on Thursday after a protest against regular delays in night trains turned violent and several drivers fled their seats and refused to work.
The trouble began when a Gede local scheduled around 9pm could not start because the guard had not reported for work. In the absence of an announcement, the passengers got restive and it culminated in the assault of the guard who came as a replacement at 9.50pm.
The train’s windscreen was smashed. Women with children and elderly passengers ran away in panic. Railway police personnel rushed in.
Railway Protection Force personnel armed with lathis chased the assaulters away and rescued the guard.
According to the railways, the original guard of the train was absent and so another one was sent. “There was a delay in the replacement. The crowd got agitated and resorted to violence,” said a senior official.
The train finally left around 11pm. However, because of the attack, a section of guards and drivers refused to work and train movement was disrupted on the Dankuni, Bongaon, Barasat, Gede, Naihati and Santipur routes.
Thousands of people got stuck in the station as public transport outside had thinned by then.
That wait, once again in the absence of any proper announcement, led to the second round of protests.
A demonstration began and the stationmaster’s office was ransacked. The violence spread to stations like Bidhannagar and Belghoria, where hundreds of people waited in vain for a way to reach home.
A railway official said the genesis of the trouble lay in Bidhannagar, where a driver of a Barasat-bound train was attacked when it arrived late.
Most regular passengers said the violence was an expression of accumulated anger.
Regular train movement finally began past 11.45pm.
Railway officials admitted the regular night delays but could not explain the reason.