With Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray spitting fire against Indians from the north, trains chugging into the Lucknow and Gorakhpur railway stations were choc-a-bloc with passengers, while the ones heading towards Mumbai were witnessing frantic last-minute cancellations.
As the Lokmanya Tilak Express touched Lucknow’s Charbagh railway station on Thursday evening, many passengers heaved a sigh of relief.
Among them was Sahil, resident of Azamgarh, who was a daily wager at a departmental store in Mumbai. “A mass exodus of north Indians from various cities of Maharashtra is taking place, with those hailing from UP and Bihar being issued threats to their lives if they stayed on in Mumbai,” he said. Sahil, who headed for Azamgarh by bus, said, “I plan to stay here till the situation normalises.”
The Pushpak Express too was full, with its general compartment packed to capacity by daily wagers. Shakeel Athari, a Sultanpur resident, working at an industrial unit in Kurla for the past 20 years said, “We could have stayed on despite the threat but then we didn't want any harm to come to our family. Nashik, Pune and Mumbai are the worst affected.”
Kanu Prasad, a Basti resident employed as store in-charge in Elf Engineering Company in Nashik, too fled soon after Raj Thackeray was arrested and let off. He said, “Around 50 people left with us. The MNS activists barged into our house and abused our family members, including women. Standing at Charbagh station with his family, Kanu wondered aloud, “How will I feed my family?”
There are hundreds like them with similar stories. And, they don’t know what to do now. At Patna station, a passenger from Mumbai returning by the Lokmanya Tilak Express said, “Hum sab kuchh luta ke aa gaye (we have left everything behind). Bhagwan Maharashtra ki raksha karein (may god protect Maharashtra).”