Af­ter the Ri­ots: Deaths by Rail­road

Tehelka - - INTERVIEW -

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

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