Grappled Fear By Its Neck

December 20, 2020

The incident took place in 2002 while we were travelling from Dimapur in Nagaland to Badarpur in Assam in the lone passenger train.

Those days we had just one passenger train running on that route.

An 8-hour journey now, however, those days it used to be an overnight journey of 15 hours.

We mostly travelled in the sleeper class and that train even did not have any AC coach.

It used to be a slow journey cutting through the beautiful hills of Assam, echoing the Jatinga tales years after years, cutting across rivers and mountains, steep passages, old bridges and older trees and pastures.

So much beauty but all moving slowly under a climate of fear, burden, negligence and independent struggles.

By midnight through the journey, poor tribals would bang the doors, helpless with no other mode of travel left, their only hope being this slow-moving passenger train.

We usually travelled for the winter vacation stay in Assam. December nights in hills of Nagaland are a painful struggle for those without sufficient woollens.

These tribals with traditional baskets, mostly women, wrapped in just a shirt and mekhela (wrap around) would dramatically bang the doors.

The people inside the train would be scared but humanity would mostly win and the reserved sleeper coach doors would be opened for them.

They usually wouldn't have tickets. They would just spread a piece of cloth on the floor of the train and slept the night there.

My mother would often offer them a shawl or a blanket. My father would often buy extra tickets and he would say "if we meet helpless people, we can give them a seat".

Some would accept these offers and some would humbly deny. When we would get up in the morning, all of them would be gone.

Most times, there would be BSF personnel too other than the GRPF in these slow trains of disturbed terrains amid fast pacing political developments.

One fine day, in one such journey, we saw a young boy, most likely a Madrasa student in a skull cap, long beard and white Kurta pant.

As soon as he got into our train at a station in Nagaland, one soldier grabbed him and there was an argument between the two.

They were near the edge of the compartment door. We were watching them from our seats. Both the soldier and the boy were travellers.

My father was observing. Very soon we witnessed that the soldier grabbed the boy by his beard. This was when I saw my father getting angry.

He went up to the soldier and charged him for his behaviour and he also reached out to his senior.

My father had a good conversation about the insensitive behaviour of the soldier. The senior himself apologised and explained the situation and sensitivity of the matter to his personnel.

I had seen my father this angry on a very few instances, he is generally a calm individual.

The common citizens generally would believe this to be a government agenda and not as the highhandedness of individual security personnel.

A probable case of religious discrimination was solved with mutual understanding, a courteous apology, a heart that forgave and communication that rightly worked.

This interpretation while standing by your rights to be treated with dignity comes from a balanced perspective and there is always a scope that we understand, interpret and act better.

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