Opposition leader Khaleda Zia had a rally in Sirajganj, Pabna. As local BNP leader and organizer of the event, Mr Iqbal Mahmud Chowdhury states, first he intended to hold the rally in a field of a local college. However, as local unit of ruling Awami League student wing called another meeting at the same time and same venue, opposition leader’s meeting was moved to a field next to a railway track. Day night public announcement were going on 3 days.
As people were gathering for the meeting and big crowd was sitting on the railway track while listening local leaders speak, a train, coming in full seed, rammed into the crowd. Seven people lost their lives. Five instantly, two later. Like anywhere in the country, the angry mob burnt several train compartments for killing of their comrades. This is a commonplace event in 21st century Bangladesh. Every time a bus / truck kills some pedestrian/ student– local mob runs amok and resort to a orgy of destruction. In Sirajganj it was already a protest rally and public was already gathered. Naturally violence erupted very easily. Several train compartments were vandalized and burnt.
Since this happened, government, totally ignoring seven deaths and the deadly failure in railway communication warning safety net, only focused on the post accident vandalism. Fof the government, five train compartments were much more important that seven BNP supporters lives. Very shockingly, the mainstream media had a similar attitude.
No investigation was even initiated to find the fault in railway communication network. After few hue and cry by opposition secretary general, one fine morning railway announced that it was “SIMPLY” an accident. None bothered to care why the accident happened. Seven lives lost. No one cared.
But hell broke lose on the activists and supporters of BNP. Cases of destruction of government property were filed against few thousand unnamed. And unprecedented crackdown on the opposition was launched. Score of people were hunted down and put behind bar everyday.
Nearly hundred were arrested by the end of the week. Few hundred more are still hiding, being relentlessly pursued by police. Every single day reports are being published about arrests made in Sirajganj train vandalism case.
There was clear failure in Railway communication system is pre-warning the running train that a public meeting was going, people are sitting on the track and the train must slow down. For God’s sake this could have been a public meeting of Awami League or a non political gathering or a passenger bus stuck over the railway tracks or it might have been a gorur haat on railway track. . There must be a safety net in Bangladesh railway system where trains are warned in advance about trouble in tracks ahead. As a train passenger, I have seen many times trains wait in remote places awaiting clearance from next station to be able to proceed. That day this warning system failed. Sirajganj station must know that a public meeting was going on. How could they give a green signal for the train to proceed?
It seems, as long as the people killed were all BNP activists, Government as well as the media are not interested in finding any crime/ flaw in it. And it seems, if they could, government would have rewarded the persons responsible for ramming a speedy train on a public meeting of opposition party BNP.