Passengers at Diva station said the lathicharge by the police in response to the protests made things take a violent turn; they asserted that the demonstrations were peaceful and people had been pacified by the local commuters’ union
The complete breakdown of law and order at the suburban Diva railway station could have been avoided that, at least, is what eyewitnesses are claiming. People at the station said that the crowd couldn’t take it any more when, on top of suffering due to the delay, police began a lathicharge.
Rail disruption: The real reason behind the chaos at Diva railway station
While some passengers decided to vent their anger at yet another CR breakdown yesterday, the retaliation from the security forces was indiscriminate and ensured that many innocent commuters also got caught in the melee. An official prepares to hit a passenger really hard at Diva station even as a rioter throws stones in the background
Furious commuters at Diva staged a rail roko after a pantograph of a CST-bound local train broke, delaying services early in the morning. According to locals, commuters had indeed blocked the railway lines, but were protesting peacefully. Things took a turn for the worse when 10-odd officials from the Railway Protection Force allegedly resorted to a lathicharge to disperse the crowds.
In scenes reminiscent of much bigger riots, policemen could be seen chasing protestors and ordinary commuters down the tracks
Ramdas Kedari, a local resident, recalled, “The crowd was under control after members of the Diva commuters’ union urged them to maintain peace. However, RPF officials started hitting a few people and this fuelled the entire incident. This is the treatment we get, on top of the shoddy service. The railways have always ignored the plight of the people from Kalwa, Mumbra and Diva.”
“We were standing on the tracks listening to the commuters’ union. However, the RPF officials suddenly started hitting people, irrespective of their gender and age. This angered the crowd and people started pelting stones on the train and damaged the railway property,” said Sunil Waghmare, another commuter.
Commuters came to the aid of a bleeding passenger and helped him receive medical attention
Adesh Bhagat, president of the commuters’ body, Diva Railway Pravasi Sanghatna, concurred, “The plight of commuters from Mumbra and Diva has been ignored for many years. The railways conduct mega blocks every week, but this doesn’t reflect in the services. Technical failures on this stretch are frequent. Hence, commuters were upset and staged a protest.”
Both commuters and policemen were cowering the former fearing the sharp crack of a lathi against their bodies and the latter ducking whizzing stones
Vandals and thieves
The angry mob went on a rampage pelting stones, damaging property and even resorting to stealing. A ticket booking clerk at the station revealed that cash to the tune of Rs 70,000 and coupons worth Rs 50,000 were stolen in the incident.
“A colleague and I locked ourselves inside a room. When we came out, everything, from furniture to computers, had been ransacked,” said Sharad Male, senior booking clerk at Diva. Besides this, the crowds also damaged seven automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs), turned the stationmaster’s office upside down, and set fire to a bike and two police jeeps parked outside.
S Jaiswal, assistant security commissioner of RPF, was injured, along with four officials from the Railway Police Special Force, one RPF guard and two motormen.
“In the entire incident, the railways suffered a total loss of Rs 1.5 crore, with stolen cash reported around Rs 1.17 lakh. Five windows, 13 ATVMs, 9 EMU trains and a DEMU train were damaged too,” said S K Sood, general manager, Central Railway.
Narrow escape for CR official
Around 10.30 am, the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Mukesh Nigam was going to Diva in a Badlapur/5 rake. RPF officials were accompanying the DRM and an intelligence message was broadcast on the former’s wireless network that a few men were waiting with weapons to assault any railway employee.
Nigam alighted from the train between Parsik tunnel and Diva station, and proceeded to walk. Sources revealed around 10-12 young boys carrying iron rods subsequently came and caused extensive damageto the train.