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A day after Kushinagar train-school van accident, an eerie silence descends on Dudahi

The families of many victims performed the last rites on Thursday itself, considering that the bodies could not be preserved for another day.

lucknow Updated: Apr 27, 2018 23:50 IST
Oliver Fredrick
Oliver Fredrick
Hindustan Times, Kushinagar
Kushinagar accident,Train,School van
Crossing Mitra Arvind Prashad standing at the accident area in Kushinagar India on April 27.(Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

An eerie silence descended on the usually bustling town of Dudahi in Kushinagar on Friday, a day after 13 children lost their lives in a tragic accident involving a school van and a train at an unmanned railway crossing.

Soft sobs and the fervent chanting of prayers were all that one could hear as traders shut shop at 4 pm and gathered in the Madarsa Tola area to participate in the funeral procession of Farhan Ali (10) and Kamran Ali (8).

Theirs was the last in a series of funeral processions taken out across Dudahi in a period of just 24 hours. The families of other victims had performed the last rites on Thursday itself, considering that the bodies could not be preserved for another day.

“Our hearts go out to the families that lost their loved ones. May Allah give them enough strength to bear this loss. We are with them in their hour of grief,” said Mohammed Shareef, who runs a juice shop in the village.

The procession – which began from Madarsa Tola after the ‘namaz’ at 5 pm – was led by Haider Ali, father of the two children. “I was initially told that they sustained injuries while playing. When I reached my house, I saw their bodies wrapped in white cloth and lying on ice slabs. I am shattered, my world is lost. I don’t have any reason to earn or even live,” said Ali, who works as a driver for a firm in Saudi Arabia.

Funeral procession of Haider Ali’s Sons Kamran and Farhan who died in the accident on April 27. ( Deepak Gupta/HT Photo )

Ali had come down from the middle-eastern country on Friday morning. He rushed to Kushinagar to see his sons immediately after his flight landed at Lucknow’s Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport around 9 am, only to come face-to-face with a terrible truth. Farhan and Kamran were dead.

“They were so innocent. What was their fault? They were only eight and ten. Their mother is numb; she has not uttered a word since yesterday,” he said, tears streaming down his face.

The procession culminated at a graveyard located barely 150 metres from the scene of the tragedy. However, another shock was in store for the family when they proceeded to bury the children. As fate would have it, the bodies had not been stitched closed after the autopsy.

Infuriated, the family staged a protest. “The bodies of the children, even their scalps, were not stitched back. This is like adding insult to injury. How can one be so insensitive?” asked Salim Ali, the children’s grandfather.

Moinuddin Ansari, who works in Saudi Arabia as a tailor, also lost two of his children in the accident. However, unlike Ali, he could not return to the village to perform the last rites.

Family members of Kamran and Farhan who died in the accident.

“As my husband left for Saudi only a week ago, after spending 20 days in the village, his employer didn’t allow him to come back,” said Salma Khatoon, the mother of the deceased children, Miraj (8) and Muskan (6). “It is tough for a mother to bear the loss of her children. I am thankful to Allah that my youngest son, Mehtab, refused to go to school that day.”

Mehtab had alighted from the school van at the last moment, complaining of stomachache.

The family of Amarjeet Kumar, the gram pradhan of Misrauli village, is also in a state of shock. He lost three children – Ravi (10), Anoop (8) and Ragini (3) – in the accident.

The family performed the last rites on Thursday because the bodies were badly mutilated. “We were at a marriage function when somebody informed us about the incident. I rushed to the hospital, only to have some insensitive officials redirect me towards the mortuary where the bodies of all my three children were being readied for an autopsy. They didn’t even allow me to take a good look at my children one last time,” said Kiran, their mother.

Villagers said Amarjeet was still in a state of shock, and wouldn’t speak to anybody.

The last major tragedy to strike Kushinagar was on June 18, 2008, when over a dozen children died after consuming discarded ice candies dumped in a secluded place. “We refer to it as the chuski kaand (ice-candy controversy). The then district magistrate was suspended after that incident,” said a resident.

First Published: Apr 27, 2018 22:34 IST