Featured Image: Representational file photo of a local train in Bengal.
Kolkata, 17 August: KHARDAH railway station in Bengal’s North 24-Parganas district turned into battlefield on Monday with women and male commuters clashing with each other over the railway’s opening up the ladies special trains for male passengers.
Police had to resort to a lathi-charge and burst tear gas cells to disperse the warring factions who targeted the security personnel as well. Around 12 persons, including a woman and four policemen, were injured in the incident. Angry passengers also damaged a railway level crossing gate near Khardah station.
Train services on the Sealdah main section remained suspended throughout the period and the services resumed after about four hours towards early in the afternoon. Police have arrested 20 passengers, including four women, for their involvement in the clash.
Trouble started around 8.30 am on Monday, after a section of women passengers blockaded the track at Khardah railway station against the railways’ move allowing male passengers to travel in ladies special trains in the Sealdah rail division from today.
Ranaghat-Sealdah Matribhoomi Local train that reached the station around 9 am, got stranded in the blockade; so did the others that followed.
With the women continuing the blockade, a section of male commuters that included several office-bound ones started hurling lewd remarks at them. This first resulted in a verbal dual and eventually escalated to both male and female passengers pelting stones at each other.
A scuffled between the two factions ensued, with more men and women passengers joining in their respective groups. The government railway police (GRP) tried to restrain the male faction and made the women to lift the blockade.
But alleging that the police were being lenient to the women despite their rail blockade during busy office hour, the male passengers launched a fresh blockade at the station.
Unable to contain the situation, when reinforcement was called in from Khardah police station, the male agitators began pelting stones and bricks at them and also at the women group that had blocked the rail track earlier.
Police finally resorted to a lathi-charge and burst several tear gas cells to contain the violence. The mob dispersed around 1 pm allowing the train services on the Sealdah main section to limp back to normalcy.
In view of today’s violence, Eastern Railway (ER) has rolled back, in case of the Sealdah main section, the move that allowed male passengers to travel in some select compartments of ladies special trains.
ER recently published notices in several Kolkata newspapers informing that from 17 August, some compartments of the 10 pairs of daily ladies special trains that ply in Sealdah rail division would be thrown open for male commuters as well.
Going by the move, in case of 12-coach ladies special trains, 6 middle coaches were opened for males, in addition to the two coaches that were reserved for vendors.
In case of 10-coach trains, four middle coaches were made available to male commuters, beside the two more coaches that were marked for vendors. Likewise in case of 9-coach trains, males were allowed to board three middle coaches and here too, two coaches were reserved for vendors.
This effectively left women passengers with only four coaches reserved for them in all ladies special trains and thus angering a large section of them who are forced to commute in jam-packed compartments every day.