Shramik Special Trains to the Northeast Are Plagued By Violence, Filthy Conditions & a Side of Racism

Social Commentary

Shramik Special Trains to the Northeast Are Plagued By Violence, Filthy Conditions & a Side of Racism

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The special trains that have been ferrying migrants from across the country back home haven’t been the most comfortable by any accounts. But one train ride for about 1,300 passengers from the Northeast earlier this week turned into a journey from hell.

About 20 hours after boarding the train in Gurgaon — during which period the passengers say they had nothing to drink or eat — the train stopped at a station in Bihar. After apparently refusing to allow a few men gathered at Danapur station on board, due to the risk of overcrowding, a crowd gathered and hurled abusive language at the passengers.

A few men in the crowd even got violent, breaking a window pane, and threatening to burn down the train.

A passenger told reporters that the police remained mute spectators through the ordeal. One also accused the police of beating the passengers in the train, who were frantically shutting doors, instead of taking the violent crowd to task.

To make things worse, another passenger said the train kept halting for long periods, delaying the journey by several hours. “Only God knows when we will reach our home,” the passenger was quoted as saying.

The incident drew harsh condemnation online. A video doing the rounds of YouTube later apparently said that people from the Northeast had prayed for the people of Bihar, and helped them financially during the lockdown.

Titled “We helped them and they attacked us”, the video had 43,000 views on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier this week, another train going from Goa to Manipur had caught the attention of human rights activists, after reports said passengers were attacked with stones, and had to deal with filthy conditions for 119 hours before getting home.

Also earlier this week, a group from Nagaland was racially abused when they stopped for some food in Bihar. Members of the group, that was travelling from Madhya Pradesh to Nagaland, said they were accosted outside an eatery and called “coronavirus”. They were also barred from using the washrooms at a couple of petrol pumps along the way.

As the lockdown lifts in parts of the country, it’s clear that some viruses plaguing society are going to be harder to deal with than Covid-19.