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Indian Train Crash Kills 58

Accident Shows Fatal Lack of Organization

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Indian Train Crash Kills 58

The crash in Amritsar last month took place during a festival.

The crash in Amritsar last month took place during a festival.

Lara Garay

The crash in Amritsar last month took place during a festival.

Lara Garay

Lara Garay

The crash in Amritsar last month took place during a festival.

Samyak Mordia, Foreign Correspondent

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Last month, in Amritsar, a city in the Indian state of Punjab, a train ran over a crowd celebrating the festival of Dussehra, killing 58 people and injuring 72 more. The people were sitting on the train tracks and watching the effigy of Ravana burn when the train whizzed past, mowing down the crowd.

Dussehra, which is an Indian festival before the festival of Diwali, is one of the biggest festivals in India. It celebrates victory of good over evil. In all cities and villages, huge effigies of Ravana—a mythological demon which denotes evil—are burned.

According to witness reports, no one was able to hear the whistle of the train or even see the train because of the loud fireworks. Most people present found out about the incident after seeing the dead bodies. The witnesses say that, as the effigy was lit, the crowd started to retreat towards the train tracks because of the loud sounds of the fire crackers. They did not even realize that a train was coming.

It was a horrific accident. The sight of dead bodies lying on the tracks was unbelievably disturbing. The family of one victim said to a reporter of the national T.V. channel APN, “He was all excited to see the Ravana Dahan [burning of the effigy of Ravana]. He dressed up for it. Said he will be back soon. Little did we know that it will be his mutilated dead body which we shall be seeing.”

Pratap Singh Bajwa, a politician associated with the state-ruling Congress Party, said that the train failed to stop after the accident on the outskirts of Amritsar. The Press Trust Of India also reported that two trains arrived from opposite directions on separate tracks at the same time, giving little opportunity for people to escape. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind expressed their sorrow towards the accident, as well.

The politicians should not use this mishap as propaganda.”

The Amritsar East Member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, whose constituency includes the area of the accident, was the chief guest of the function where the accident took place. “We burned the Ravana effigies at six places today. Most of them were near the railway track,” she said. “The [railway authorities] should have at least issued directions to slow down the speed of the train. Such a big mistake.”

The railways should have been more careful and alert about what was happening on and near their tracks. Although the District Administration, which is the apex governing body of the district, denies having any knowledge about the function, there is enough evidence which suggests otherwise. The function has been taking place at the same venue for many years and is always witnessed by local police and administration officials.

The organizers also claim to have written to the police giving information about the event so that the police could make the “necessary arrangements.” If the state representative of the area was invited to a function as the Chief Guest, the District Administration should have known about it.

The political parties are now blaming each other for this disaster. It is not right to politicize such a horrendous tragedy in which so many people have lost their lives. Instead, the parties should get together to provide relief to the victims’ kins. The politicians should not use this mishap as a propaganda.

The government should investigate this accident and the guilty parties should be punished for their negligence. The crash ruined the lives of many people; therefore, justice will only be imparted when the guilty parties are given appropriate punishment and the victims are given compensation without any political motive.

 

Samyak, a former CRLS student, currently resides in New Delhi, India.

 

This piece also appears in our November 2018 print edition.

About the Contributors
Samyak Mordia, Foreign Contributor

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Lara Garay, Arts Editor

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Indian Train Crash Kills 58