New Delhi: A section of passengers had a harrowing time on Monday as Dalit protesters blocked trains at several places, squatted on tracks and “uprooted” them, affecting not less than 100 trains, officials said.
Those who witnessed the violence first hand through their train coaches’ windows made fervent appeals for help to the railway ministry using social media sites.
More than 100 trains were affected due to the protests that hit the entire country, and those on board, who had no way to get to their destinations, expressed helplessness and fear through tweets.
“It is horrifying when you are inside your train to reach your destination for regular business, and outside you see is some hooligans thinking they can do a better job by standing against the judiciary. Stop violence. Protest peaceful. #BharatBandh,” tweeted Gagan Bajaj on Sunday afternoon, from inside his train stopped by protestors.
Along with the tweet, he posted a video captured from the train showing a mob creating a ruckus on the platform.
Bajaj and several other passengers have been tweeting since morning appealing to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to intervene.
“Urgent help needed.!!!!! #BharatBandh, #KarnatakaExpress No food. No water. No electricity. Protestors sitting on tracks. Threatening to burn train,” tweeted Nikita, who was on board the Karnataka Express, which she said was stuck in Agra for three hours.
Another passenger, Om Prakash, who was on the same train, too tweeted about the lack of food, water and power supply.
Hina Jain, another traveller, said the Jaipur-Delhi Double-decker train had been stopped by protesters earlier on Sunday morning and was pelted with stones.
Several Dalit organisations called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on Monday against the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The Supreme Court had, on March 20, diluted the provisions of the Act and said government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens, too, should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
Dalit organisations, including the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, and some political parties fear that the “dilution” of the provisions of the Act may lead to increase in violence against the community.
While the railways was yet to confirm any damage to its property, passengers on board trains informed the ministry through twitter that protesters were “uprooting” tracks.
“Several trains running between Jaipur and Delhi stopped at Alwar railway station after protestors uprooted the railway tracks,” tweeted Smriti Arora from the Allahabad-Jaipur Express stuck at Alwar for over four hours on Monday.
Passengers on board the New Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani, which made an unscheduled stop at the Mathura Junction, also said they were stuck because of tracks being “uprooted” near the Hindaun City railway station under the Kota Railway division of West Central Railway zone.
The Divisional Railway Manager, responding to the queries from passengers said the Jaisalmer-Kathgodam Express and the Ajmer-Kishanganj Express had been diverted due to the agitation.
The protests have claimed at least seven lives, officials said.
Nine trains were cancelled over the next two days and scores were short-terminated due to the protests, railways officials said.
The routes were largely restored later in the day, they claimed.
Protesters also squatted on the tracks, pelted stones at trains and wrecked havoc on platforms forcing the cancellation of Amritsar-Jaynagar Saryu Yamuna Express, New Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express, Jaipur-Chandigarh Intercity Express, Ajmer-New Delhi Shatbdi Express and the Sealdah-Varanasi Express for Monday.
The national transporter had also cancelled three trains – Amritsar – New Delhi Shatabdi Express, Amritsar – Chandigarh Superfast Express and the Chandigarh-Jaipur Intercity Express which were scheduled to run today, along with the Jaynagar – Amritsar Shaheed Express scheduled for April 4.