The Guwahati-Bangalore Special overshot its scheduled departure at 1:15pm by 80 minutes on Saturday. The delay made Debajit Chetia feel special; he was one of 61 reasons why the first of the ‘back-to-work’ train for ‘northeasterners’ took that much time to be green-flagged.
The train for people from the northeast states who had fled Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and other cities fearing a backlash of the Bodo-Muslim violence in Assam initially had 212 on board. Nearly 800 more were booked from four stops en route.
“Sixty-one people arrived minutes before the scheduled departure and we had to add an extra general coach,” a northeast frontier railway officer said.
Chetia, 29, of Sivasagar district in eastern Assam quickly “reserved” his seat in the extra coach. Chetia and the 60 others who had arrived at the last minute just could not wait for the next special to Bangalore on September 5.
“I am thrilled about rejoining as the labour supervisor of a construction company in Bangalore for R14,000 a month,” said Chetia.
Eager to be back as a security guard for a software company, Sarbeswar Mili, 30, of Boginodi village, 410 km east of Guwahati, took the train “back to the life Bangalore ensures”. He was grateful to his employers for not replacing him.
DM Putokho, 20, and Doutio Vemai, 19, from Manipur’s Senapati district weren’t as effusive. But these mass communication students of St Joseph’s College, Bangalore, wanted to get back to their studies.
“Assault on one of our friends by locals made us leave Bangalore on August 15,” Putokho said, adding reassurance from Karnataka officials had made them board the first return special.
Doutio hoped there would be no “incidents” along the way. He was referring to the killing of 12 people returning in trains to the northeast during the exodus from cities outside.