The religious festivals in Bangladesh have a magical spell over the lives of the people, regardless of cast, creed and clan. Having incomprehensible emotions of togetherness, these festivals bring almost all members of a family home, no matter, how far they stay for their study or livelihood purpose.
Similarly, the family members being rapt with the aroma of the festivals eagerly count down the long-cherished moments to come home.
But, both days before and after the celebrations do not always bring ecstatic feelings and experiences to them when they are on the way home or make their round trip.
My younger sister studies in Khulna University. As the distance between her alma mater and our hometown is more or less two hundred kilometres, hardly can she come home, especially when there is a long vacation. Of late, on the occasion of Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival for the Hindu community, she came home and joined the grand celebration. Her presence added more delight to our celebration. However, amidst the unbound mirth and happiness, her holidays seemed to be evaporated in the twinkling of an eye. Finally, her day to leave home turned up.
Given train journey a comparatively safe and easy mode of transportation to travel between our hometown Ishwardi and Khulna, she always opts for train journey. Nonetheless, like other round trips, this time my younger sister boarded Sagordari Express train and found her seat beside window. While the train was near Khulna railway station, an unidentified miscreant pelted stones that rocketed through the window next to her and hit the edge of her eye. She screamed aloud in aching. With the help of other passengers, she was rushed to a nearest eye hospital. Thanks are to God, her eye could evade the possible impairment but still she has been suffering from the pain caused by the hit.
Hurling stones at the running trains is neither a rare phenomenon nor does stick to happen in a particular place. It goes off at almost every corner across the country. Of such many incidents, very few come out in media reports. In 2013, Priti Das, a young female engineer, met such a fatal incident. She, accompanied by her husband Mintu, boarded Turna Nishitha train and set out from Chittagong for a four-day trip to Dhaka with a view to spending the vacation with some members of their relatives. When the train reached Bhanga Bridge area of Bhatiari under Sitakunda upazila, Priti was hit hard by stones hurled by some reprobates while she was asleep. She shrieked and became unconscious by the hit.
Instantly, she was taken to Sitakunda Health Complex and later shifted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where attending doctors declared her dead. In the next year, a similar incident was reported near Shitakundu Station where Arup Chakraborty, a bank official, reportedly sustained severe injuries on his eyes after being hit by a stone, again thrown by an unidentified miscreant and permanently lost one of his eyes.
Although Bangladesh Railway (East Zone), following the tragic death of Priti Das, had launched a campaign from Pahartali in Chittagong to Feni to build awareness among people living beside railway tracks to stop throwing stones at trains, the campaign could not prove successful since the news of such untoward incidents still appear in our social and mass media.
However, these mischievous acts remind us of the fable of Aesop. According to the fable, some boys were playing one day at the edge of a pond in which lived a family of frogs. The boys used to amuse themselves by throwing stones into the pond so as to make them skip on top of the water. The stones were flying thick and fast and the boys were enjoying themselves very much; but the poor frogs in the pond were trembling with fear. At last one of the frogs, the oldest and bravest, put his head out of the water, and said, “Oh, please, dear children, stop your cruel play!
Though it may be fun for you, it means death to us!” The similar things happen to some of mischief makers who find hilarity by hurling stones at the moving trains, especially some youngsters are found to engage themselves in this wanton game.
Nevertheless, the miscreants do the evil works not only for perverted pleasure but for monetary gain as well. They target those train passengers who sit and hold mobile phones or other expensive gadgets in hand beside the window. A video clip telecast by Ityadi, a popular television programme aired in Bangladesh Television (BTV) shows that a group of people with machetes attacked a passenger of a running train to snatch away his electronic gadget and the passenger underwent severe injury. Luckily, he could escape the fatality.
These stone-throwing menaces in trains make us ponder over some crucial matters which really need to be addressed well. It is often opined that though there are laws enough to punish the perpetrators, no significant action is yet taken against those involved in hurling stones at the moving trains and in consequence, no sense of apprehension and penitence have not been aroused in those perpetrators. While the views can, by no means, be flouted, none should also forget that laws alone cannot bar such kind of malicious acts. If our moral values degenerate, if our humanity, conscience as well as social awareness remain dormant, if we turn our eyes to our own interest and remain averse to voicing out against these perpetrators and their heinous acts, only the howling of victims and their near and dear ones will be heard and thus, will continue. Even their tears cannot enkindle our numb feelings. Truth be told, simply we will continue to read the news of these mischievous crimes on newspapers, will criticise those malicious crimes both in public and social media. Sometimes, we will write columns on the tragic demise of the victims and express our condolences to the bereaved families. Or, a storm of discussions will, further, be initiated in TV Talk Shows. And following a few days or months, again we will disremember everything and will be busy with another new issue. But do we really know: Who amongst us taking train journey as a safer mode of transportation to reach our near and dear ones will be the next victim of pelting stones?
The writer is a BCS (General Education) Cadre Officer and teaches English at Ishwardi Government College, Pabna. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org