New Delhi/Amritsar: Over 40 hours after the shocking accident in Amritsar in which 59 Dussehra revellers were mowed down by a train, protesters were cleared off the tracks and services resumed on Sunday afternoon, a railway spokesperson said.
The railways got the clearance from local authorities at 12:30 pm, the spokesperson said. “The first goods train started from Manawala to Amritsar at 1416 hours,” said Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar. This train will be followed by mail/express trains, he said.
Senior Divisional Security Commissioner (Railways), Firozpur Division, S Sudharkar told PTI, “Train services have resumed on the affected rail track (Joda Phatak). A goods train was allowed to run on this track.”
Despite resumption of train services, the railways cancelled 17 trains , short-terminated 14 and diverted seven on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab Police removed the protesters from the tracks who were staging a sit-in. When they were removed, the agitated protestors resorted to stone-pelting and clashed with security personnel, officials said.
A Punjab Police commando and a photojournalist were injured during the clash, they said.
The protesters were raising slogans against the state government and demanding resignation of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The Punjab Police has deployed its personnel, including commandos, to manage the crowd. The Rapid Action Force is also present in the Joda Patak area, officials said. The district administration has said that out of 59 people who were mowed down by the speeding Jalandhar-Amritsar train Friday, 40 have been identified.
People raised slogans against the district administration claiming that some people were still missing. They demanded that the missing person be traced and also adequate compensation be given to the families of the victims.
“Two labourers who were living in my area are still missing,” said Kamal, who is a resident of an area near Joda Phatak where at least 59 people were killed Friday evening after a Dussehra gathering watching the burning of a Ravana effigy was run over by a train. Kamal raised apprehensions that the death toll could be higher than the figure given by the government.
On Saturday, after visiting the accident site and the hospitals where the injured were admitted, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said 59 people were killed and 57 injured. Sub-divisional magistrate Rajesh Sharma, however, said 61 people lost their lives.
At the Sunday protest, another local, named Raju, said a man was still looking for the body of his father who died in the incident. “He had gone to collect a piece of cloth to cover the body of his father, but when he returned he could not find the body,” said Raju.
Another local, Ram Kumar, claimed that four members of Kajal’s family, who are vegetable-sellers, are missing.
Anju, whose brothers Vikas and Ninderpal were killed in the incident, accused leaders of indulging in politics over this incident.
“When everybody knows that Dussehra function had been organised here for the past several years, appropriate steps should have been taken beforehand to prevent such kind of tragedy,” she said.
Another man was inconsolable. He could just find the slippers of his brother Sonu. He carried the slippers to the police station prayed them to help him find his missing brother.
The protesters raised slogans against the district administration and vent their ire against the railways for not slowing down the train. Meanwhile, shops near the Joda Phatak area remained closed. At least 300 people were watching the ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground adjacent to railway tracks when the accident took place.