Stir by Kurmis: Rlys vows to run trains amid blockade threat today
The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday declared the “Rail teka Dahar Chheka” movement illegal, after which West Bengal faction of the Adivasi Kurmi Samaj withdrew itself from the blockade.
The South Eastern Railway restored normal train services under Adra, Kharagpur, Chakradharpur and Ranchi divisions with immediate effect following withdrawal of the indefinite rail blockade by the West Bengal faction of the Adivasi Kurmi Samaj (AKS) late Tuesday evening in the wake of the Calcutta High Court order declaring the “Rail teka Dahar Chheka” movement by the Kurmi community illegal.
Uncertainty and confusion still loomed large over lakhs of train passengers as the Jharkhand and Odisha factions of AKS and Totemic Kurmi Vikas Morcha (TKVM) reiterated late Tuesday evening that their indefinite rail blockade movement staring September 20 would continue as scheduled.
The community has been demanding the inclusion of Kurmis in the list of scheduled tribes (ST) and inclusion of Kurmali language in the 8th schedule of the Constitution.
“The West Bengal faction of AKS led by Ajit Prasad Mahato has withdrawn from the agitation but our rail blockade will continue as scheduled in Jharkhand and Odisha. We will hold sit-in on railway tracks at Nimdih, Muri, Manoharpur, Gomoh and Ghaghra stations under Chakradharpur and Ranchi divisions in Jharkhand and Barpada, Rairangpur (Amlajuri), Harishchandra, Jeraikela and Dhanpur in Odisha.,” TKVM president Sheetal Ohdar told HT late Tuesday evening on phone.
With the West Bengal faction out, there would be no blockade at Kustaur under Adra division and Khemasuli under Kharagpur division in West Bengal, as planned earlier.
“Normal train services will be restored with immediate effect in view of withdrawal of proposed agitation by the Kurmi community. Therefore, all trains which were earlier cancelled, diverted, short-terminated or short-originated will run as per schedule,” a SE Railway press release late Tuesday evening stated.
“We are aware that the Kurmi community factions in Jharkhand and Odisha have not withdrawn their agitation. Following the HC order, all the three state governments have taken necessary steps to ensure smooth conduct of train services. We have had talks with chief secretaries of Jharkhand and Odisha as well and prohibitory orders under section 144 have been imposed at the areas concerned and additional force deployment was being done. The train services will be functional normally as per schedule tomorrow,” Aditya Choudhary, SE Railway chief public relation officer (CPRO), told HT on phone from Kolkata late Tuesday evening.
Earlier, SE Railway had cancelled 155 trains and diverted and short-terminated another 17 trains on Wednesday in view of the proposed rail blockade by the Kurmi community from September 20 at about a dozen stations in three states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
The rail blockade movement by the AKS between September 20 and 25 in 2022 and between April 5 and 10 in 2023 had completely thrown the railway traffic out of gear. More than 500 trains had to be cancelled, numerous trains diverted or short-terminated, leaving 4-5 lakh passengers stranded. More than 300 goods train services were also hit.
TKVM president Sheetal Ohdar said their rail blockade would continue until the union government conceded their demand.
“We hope the Modi government will agree to our rightful demand to correct the historical wrongs during the ongoing special session of the Parliament from September 16 to September 22. We request all the MPs from the Kurmi community to raise the issue in Lok Sabha strongly. The India Gazette notification on May 3, 1913, mentions Kurmis as aboriginals, to be kept out of the purview of Indian Heritance Law, 1865, along with the other tribal communities,” Ohdar said.
“Census reports in 1901,1911 and 1921 too considered the Kurmis as aboriginals. The day any court in India rejects our demand as wrong and illegal, we will withdraw our agitation. We are aware lakhs of people will have to bear with many problems due to our agitation but we are left with no option,” Harmohan Mahato, AKS central spokesperson, said.
Meanwhile, help desks have been set up at Ranchi and Tatanagar stations.
Additional RPF companies have been sent to stations concerned while state police have also made additional force deployment to prevent anyone from reaching the railway tracks.