A passenger who was on the train which ran over Dussehra revellers near Jaura Phatak in Amritsar on Friday evening said the train sounded its horn continuously as it passed the Dhobi Ghat ground where the Ravan effigy was burning.
On Monday, The Indian Express traced three passengers who were on the train that evening, and all three said they neither saw nor felt anything amiss when they crossed the ground.
They said they learnt about the accident on reaching home.
Gurwinder, a resident of Putlighar in Amritsar who works at a motor spare-parts shop in Jalandhar’s Transport Nagar, spoke to The Indian Express on Jalandhar City railway station’s platform while waiting for the train —- Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU 74643 —- which resumed service on Monday after two days. “The train was packed on Friday. In the morning, when I had left for Jalandhar, preparations were on for the Dussehra function at Amritsar’s Dhobhi ghat. So when the train approached Jaura Phatak, I came near the door as the Ravan effigy was burning. The train went past the dhobhi ghat blowing the horn,” Gurwinder said.
He said, “After I reached home, I got a call from a friend in Delhi who said a train had crushed several people in Amritsar. I thought it must be Howrah Mail (another train on the same route) – I cannot believe the train I was travelling on crushed so many people. There was nothing to indicate this when I was travelling.”
An elderly man (name withheld on request) who works as security guard for a cluster of shops in Amritsar’s Hall Bazaar and boarded the DMU on Monday at Tangra, was also travelling on Friday evening and said he learnt about the accident after reaching his workplace. “The train itself is very noisy. The only other thing which could be heard near Jaura Phatak was the sound of crackers as the Ravan effigy burnt,” he said.
Another regular passenger, Ramsharan, who works at a distillery in Hamira, also said he learnt about the accident after reaching home.
“I had gone off to sleep. I woke up when the driver applied brakes suddenly – by then the train was already past Dhobhi Ghat,” Ramsharan said. He said the train then picked up speed again, heading towards Amritsar.
He said passengers got off at Amritsar station “normally”, and it did not appear anyone had any inkling that the train had run over so many people. “I learnt about the accident from a friend who called me,” Ramsharan said.
As the five-coach train resumed operations, many passengers on Monday were from Fazilka, most of them going to Amritsar to take an examination conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board on Tuesday. They had got on the train at 11.30 am in Fazilka, where it has a different number —- the number changes to 74643 at Jalandhar.
The regulars on the train are Dera Beas followers and government employees, who commute daily between Amritsar and Jalandhar.
On Monday, most passengers discussed the accident. Jarnail Singh, who boarded at Fazilka with his wife, said, “My wife was trying to cross the tracks in a hurry and I reminded her of what had happened in Amritsar last week. Someone who overheard this said this is the same train.”
The train left Jalandhar an hour late on Monday, with the loco pilot blowing the horn continuously well ahead of approaching railway crossings. Policemen stood in clusters at vulnerable points near Jaura Phatak as train chugged into Amritsar railway station at 8.15 pm.