Travelling is a nightmare for women.There are coaches reserved for women, but with few GRP personnel to enforce rules, men take over the precious space. That is why Bhagat Singh, a Delhi government health department employee from Ballabhgarh, says, “ A woman can hardly survive on this train. A couple of days ago, a woman got stuck in a tight pack of men, but the coach was so jam packed that she could not ask anyone to move.“
In a complete absence of any kind of supervision -no CCTV cameras, no railway police, not even ticket checkers -it is the crowd that makes the rules and enforces them also. “There has been almost no improvement in these coaches in the 20 years I have been using them,“ grumbles Devinder Singh, a computer instructor at NIT Faridabad.“Every day , the trains carry over 10 times their capacity . And why can’t we have a system like in Mumbai, where trains run every 15-20 minutes.“
Commuters, who pay a mere Rs 35 for the 141-km trip, identified the stretch between Kosi Kalan and Faridabad to be most problematic both in terms of passenger rush, frayed nerves and musclepower. “Fights occur daily here,“ says Dinesh Tanwar, though, he added, the killing of Khan was a first of kind. He held out his phone and showed the video of bloody compartment he had shot on that fateful Thursday night. Like him, many others had witnessed the fight, but all claimed ignorance, reluctant to be questioned by police.
There are many Muslim localities on the route, including Okhla, Nizamuddin, Faridabad and some villages in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. However, there were hardly any Muslim commuters visibly dressed in their traditional attire. Shakil Quraishi, an itinerant labourer, hesitantly expresses his apprehensions: “Dekhiya mahoul kharab to hua hai chunav kay baad (the atmosphere has been vitiated since the UP elections). It is as if Muslims have lost some kind of war.“
At Faridabad, the already stuffed compartment took on more passengers.
In the gas chamber of sorts, people become edgy and arguments over people stepping on each other’s toes and goods ensued. Devender Singh, however, testified that to day was actually “a good day“ the crowd was smaller and -heaven be thanked -the train was on time.
At Hodal, hundreds more rushed into the train’s heaving innards. In a few seconds, every vacated toe space was re-occupied. “People will come and sit on your lap,“ says Manoj Kumar, who works as a surgeon’s assistant in Faridabad. “If you object, they’ll pounce on you. Many of them are drug consumers.“ During the two-way experience, this reporter saw only one GRP personnel on the train, at Vrindavan, towards the latter part of one trip.
Life on a Delhi local isn’t, of course, only about fisticuffs and space grabbing. While today’s commuters retreat behind the technological curtain pro vided by earphones and mobile phones, many pass the time sing ing bhajans. Equipped with a mike, cymbals and small drums, a group spent the entire four hours singing devotional songs. “I have been singing with this group for 10 years,“ chuckles Rishi Kumar. “Members in the group keep changing though.“
With the monsoon winds thankfully bringing relief in the overcrowded compartments, the local chugs along green fields as the lead singer sings, “Guru hi ishwar, guru hi Allah, guru hi KaabaKashi main, guru hi to gurdwaron main hain, Bible ki tallashon main“. As the singer disembarks at Ballabhgarh, the strains of Kabir’s bhajan couldn’t have sounded more ironic.