Tension ran high as hundreds of people, demanding conversion of a halt into a railway station, set fire to at least two coaches of Delhi-bound Mahananda Express and fought a pitched battle with police and railway personnel in Hathras, about 350 km west of Lucknow, on Wednesday.
Senior officials -- including DM, SP, a circle officer and three jawans -- sustained injuries even as police opened fire and lobbed teargas shells to control the stone-pelting and arson resorted to by the irate mob. “SP Shiyaram Sharan Aditya sustained injuries in legs, while DM Pragyan Ram Mishra was injured in the head,” an official told HT over the phone.
Movement of trains on the Delhi-Howrah route was disrupted due to the violence and several trains were diverted, causing major delays and inconvenience to passengers. The protestors had pushed back the police, taking control of the railway premises till the filing of this report. It was not initially clear as to how many protestors had sustained injuries in the mêlée.
Sources said the Hathras Road railway station had recently been converted into a halt after gauge conversion and an existing halt, Nendu, was made a railway station. (There are five railway stations in Hathras.) Workers of Bhrastachar Unmoolan Parishad (BUP), an NGO, and the BJP had been protesting the closure of Hathras’100-year-old railway station and shifting of its operations to Nendu. They also said at least three people had recently been killed while boarding and alighting trains at Hathras Road due to their reduced stoppage duration.
At 7.20 am on Wednesday, the police arrested BUP leader Mahendra Pal Dikshit and resorted to force to quell the ‘rail roko’ movement. The protestors also alleged the police misbehaved with some women agitators, which sparked off violence with hundreds of villages going on the rampage.
“Apprehending trouble, the authorities stopped the Kolkata-Delhi Mahananda Express at Hathras Junction station and vacated the entire train. But when the train reached Haathras Road, the protestors set fire to several coaches,” said a senior railway official. There was panic as passengers trooped out of the train but no one was injured. The Commissioner, who reached the spot along with the DIG, ordered cops to open fire and lob teargas shells to control the situation.