Md Ayub. Picture by Srinivas
Md Ayub, a 35-year-old passenger travelling on the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express on Tuesday, recounts his horrifying experience as villagers owing allegiance to the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities held hostage the train at Banstala for over five hours. Ayub, who was travelling alone, boarded the train at Kharagpur on his way to New Delhi and reached Tatanagar railway station at 12.15am.
Seated in coach B-2 I was enjoying the green fields outside the window when suddenly the train came to a halt. Before I could understand anything, there was a commotion outside.
As I peeped out, I saw about 200 people, all tribal villagers, moving towards the train from both sides. At first, it looked as if villagers were trying to board the train en mass. But in the next moment I found the train was being attacked with stones. Soon, a major section of the mob stormed the train and started breaking the window panes and ransacking the fittings.
It was about 2.45pm.
After 10 minutes, the villagers asked all of us to disembark. They told us not to be afraid as they would not cause any harm. But it was hard to believe them as most of them carried weapons .
Our coach was almost full. I saw a woman clutching her kid close to her heart as a sword-wielding man forced us to get down. We vacated the train within minutes. One of the attackers started scribbling on the train. From his message, we understood that they were rebels and wanted their leader’s release.
But what was shocking was that there were no policemen around when the tribals were attacking the train. The passengers had been left at the mercy of the Naxalites who seemed more like robbers.
The situation became all the more frightening as it became dark.
Almost after two-and-a-half hours of sitting outside the train, the rebels asked us to go back to the train. As we entered, they confined us to one of the bogies and bolted it from outside. I was very thirsty and needed water desperately. But there was no drinking water there.
As the train was held up inside a jungle, there was no food or water in sight.
At 6.45pm, I heard sounds of firing outside. Later, we found a large number of para military forces reaching our compartment. Seeing them, we heaved a sigh of relief. Later, we were told that a relief train was on the way. At 9.45pm, the relief train arrived with food and water.
Some of the passengers who had sustained minor injuries were provided treatment by doctors who had come on the relief train.
We resumed our journey at 10.10pm.