Eloping wives have earned renewed notoriety for a 225-km stretch of railway track on the New Delhi-Guwahati main line, running through the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
This stretch was for long infamous for high incidence of crime, like dacoity, loot and theft, in trains plying on this busy route.
But, of late, this stretch, running from Barh in Patna district to Katihar railway station in eastern Bihar, has acquired notoriety for another reason - mounting incidence of wives going missing from moving trains, many of them later found to have ‘deserted’ their husbands..
Police records show at least five incidents of married women going ‘inexplicably’ missing from trains on this route.in recent months. While three such cases have been registered at the Barh police station, about 60 km east of state capital, Patna, two cases have been lodged at the Katihar rail police station.
The latest incident of a married woman, travelling with her husband, going missing, came to light on April 22 when Najmin Khatoon, wife of Pune (Maharashtra) motor garage owner Mohammad Hasnain, was found untraceable in the Danapur-Sahebganj intercity train.
The couple had boarded the train at the Patna junction railway station and intended to travel up to Bhagalpur, covering a distance of about 220 km. As a train reached Athmalgola railway station, about 48 km south-east of Patna junction, Hasnain found his wife missing from the compartment.
Finding no trace of Najmin, Hasnain lodged an FIR at the railway police station at Barh.
Station house officer (SHO) of the Barh government rail police (GRP) Suresh Ram confirmed that a case had been lodged on the basis of Husnain’s statement. But there was no trace of the missing woman till this report was filed on Thursday.
However, the SHO revealed that this was not the sole incident of its kind to be reported at his police station.
“On March 15, another married woman, Shabnam Yadav, had gone missing from the Bhagalpur-Anand Vihar Vikramshila Express, when the train stopped at platform number 3 of the Barh railway station.
As per an FIR lodged by Shabnam’s husband Aditya, a hotel management graduate, he, along with his wife, was travelling in three tier coach number S-7. The two had boarded the train at Jamalpur, about 168 km east of Patna. But soon after train left Mokama, about 100 km east of Patna, she disappeared.
“Three days after she went missing, Shabnam appeared at the Barh railway police station and confessed she had gone to Bhagalpur of her own will to meet friends”, said Ram, the Barh GRP SHO. “Subsequent investigations showed she might have gone to see a male friend”, the SHO added.
Earlier, in 2016, a newly-wed woman, Smita, 26, had gone missing at the Mokama railway station, while travelling with her husband, Tathagat (of Patrakar Nagar, Patna), in an AC first class compartment of the Rajendra Nagar-Kamakhya Capital Express.
Police said Tathagat, posted as branch manager of a bank branch in Uttar Pradesh, boarded the train with his wife at Patna’s Rajendra Nagar railway terminal, around 11.20 pm, for their honeymoon trip to Darjeeling via New Jalpaiguri.
When Tathagat woke up at Mokama, he found his wife missing. After searching for her, but in vain, he lodged a case at the Katihar GRP station. Twenty four hours after the incident, Smita contacted Katihar rail SP Umashankar Prasad and informed him she did not want to live with her husband and wasn’t coming back.
Police sources said two other cases of disappearance of newly-wedded wives came to light in November 2016 (at Mokama) and February 2017 (at Barauni). “But because of the high profile of the persons and families involved, only station diary entries were made. There was no FIR”, police sources said.
“It is true that a fair number of cases going missing from trains have come to light in recent months. We are ascertaining which of these women deserted their husbands of their own will and which became victims of crime”, said Jitendra Mishra, superintendent of Patna railway police.
In August 2007, Rani Archana Singh, the newly married daughter of a then additional district judge of Banka, had mysteriously gone missing from Capital Express train near Mokama. Her body was later found and her husband, an engineer with the Indian Railways, was convicted of her murder.