After the Riots: Deaths by Railroad
PARMESHWAR SAIKIA, 23, heaved a sigh of relief as he got off the special train. A week ago, after SMSes and MMSes had gone viral and morphed pictures of attacks on Muslims in the lower Assam riots were all over social media sites, the country witnessed an exodus like never before. Students, security guards, hotel staff, working professionals — in all, 50,000 people from the Northeast, left in droves from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, fearing the worst. Bengaluru alone saw 30,000 people fleeing the state in a week’s time.
Parmeshwar hails from Majuli in Jorhat district. “I was working with a security agency in Hyderabad,” he says, “and earning 12,000 a month. But I will not go back. I will find something here.” Parmeshwar was allegedly threatened by some local Muslim youths when he was at home one night. He left the very next morning.
Parmeshwar’s neighbour, Anil Das, 22, was not so lucky. Anil’s body was found on the railway track near the Burdwan station in West Bengal. He was working as a security guard in a posh hotel in Hyderabad. “Anil called on 18 August to tell us that he had left for Guwahati,” says his brother Nitul Das. “We did not hear from him after that. Now we hear that his body is lying in Burdwan. I feel I am to blame, I should have brought him along.” Nitul and his brothers Anil and Gopal all worked as security guards in Hyderabad. Following the threat SMSes, Nitul and Gopal left Hyderabad on 17 August. Anil could not join them owing to his duty schedule and was supposed to follow them the next day.
A month after clashes broke out in lower Assam between Bodos and Bengali Muslims, the state is still picking up the pieces. Over 85 people have reportedly lost their lives, and nearly 5 lakh have been displaced. Sporadic incidents of violence continue as over 2.5 lakh people languish in relief camps. As the state grapples with this new wave of exodus, shocking reports of at least 11 bodies along railway tracks have stoked the embers. All of them were thrown off trains bound for Assam.
Sanjay Ray, a Kochrajbonshi from Kokrajhar, died after he was thrown off a train between Palasa and Sompeta Railway Station in Andhra Pradesh on 14 August. His body finally reached his village Dimalgaon on 20 August. Tragically, Sanjay met his end when he had gone to Andhra Pradesh to bring Khanin Ray, another youth who was also attacked and thrown off a train on 7 August on his way to Kokrajhar from Kerala. Four people, including Sanjay, had gone to bring Khanin back to his village. On their way back by the Trivandrum Express, they were attacked at the Sompeta Railway Station, and Sanjay was thrown out of the train. The Railway Police later confirmed his death.
Worse was to follow. On 18 August, between 9.45 pm and 10 pm, 14 youths were thrown out of a special Guwahatibound train from Bengaluru after it had crossed the New Jalpaiguri station in West Bengal. Local villagers recovered four bodies between Falakata and Belakoba in Jalpaiguri district on the Assam-Bengal border; 10 others were seriously injured. All 14 were Muslims in their early 20s.
Three of the dead — Atiqure Rehman Majumdar, Saibur Rehman and Iqbal Hussain Choudhury were from the Hailakandi