The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Train card players slap priest for seat

Krishnagar, March 27: Daily passengers beat up a priest and English teacher of the Don Bosco School here when he refused to give up his seat in a local train so that they could play cards.

Through the two-and-a-half-hour journey from Krishnagar to Sealdah on Saturday, the hooligans slapped Father Dilip Mondal, pulled his hair, abused him and and ripped off his cassock.

Although shaken and in- jured, the 40-year-old priest finished his work in the city and set out for Krishnagar that night in a car arranged by Don Bosco Calcutta.

On his way back, Fr Mondal had to be admitted to the Nadia district hospital with breathlessness and severe body ache. He was released a few hours later.

The priest narrated his experience to the Krishnagar station authorities over the phone yesterday.

Rajat Bose, the deputy station manager, rushed to his quarters at Krishnagar Catholic Church with the local railway police officer-in-charge.

“We were shocked to learn about the incident. We’ve sent a messages to all stations to identify groups of daily passengers who harass others on train,” Bose said.

Officer-in-charge Utpal Biswas said a case had been registered against the passengers. “We are in the process of identifying them. They will be arrested,” he added.

Fr Mondal said he boarded the local around 6 am on Saturday and got a window seat. “A group of seven got in at Taherpur and asked me to vacate my seat as they wanted to sit in a group to play cards and smoke. I refused to oblige. I would probably have had they been polite,” he said.

Not used to such a stern, though sober, refusal, the passengers turned violent. They tried to pull the priest out of his seat, but he held his ground. When the train reached Birnagar, five other passengers joined the seven. They tore his cassock, held him by the collar, gripped his throat and slapped him.

“There were about 50 other passengers in the compartment, but none of them intervened,” Fr Mondal said.

When the compartment became more crowded, the passengers sat next to the priest and started their game of cards and continued to needle him. “They kept hitting me on the head. They also pulled my hair and abused me. But I did not leave my seat despite the humiliation,” Fr Mondal told The Telegraph.

The menace of daily passengers, many of whom are great lovers of card games while on the move, is not uncommon in Bengal.

Most incidents of ordinary passengers’ harassment go unreported and the authorities feign ignorance.

Fr Mondal’s torture might just wake them up.

Sealdah divisional railway manager Swapan Mondal said: “It is a shocking incident. We can’t deny the menace of daily passengers.”

He also said it is “difficult to keep an eye on rogue daily passengers as the compartments are very crowded” during rush hours. “Sometimes, our efforts to control them are met with resistance.”

“We’ll hold meetings with the railway police to curb this menace,” he added.

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