Women Travel Ticketless to Win the World!!
On one occasion, in 1994, a group of people were going to celebrate their socio- cultural meet that was organised in Chhattisgarh in India. Around three hundred men and women set out from Dhar, Alirajpur and Barwani districts of western part of Madhya Pradesh in India. This area is known as Malwa-Nimar region in the country. This meet was organised by P.V. Rajgopal, the Convenor of the people’s rights mass organisation, Ekta Parishad. Ten thousand people gathered from all over the country. The convention was held over three days in Tilda-Nevra village in Raipur district of Chhattisgarh. The convention was held to showcase the immense variety of tribal culture in various parts of the country and the efforts being made to represent their collective life style, document and promote tribal history, save cultural identity and promote tribal arts and crafts. The people from non – Tribal areas made every possible arrangement to give the tribals a chance to perform easily. They took care of the food, water supply, stage, medicines and toilets etc.
After three days the participants were ready to go back to their respective places. There was a custom among mass organisations in those days to travel all over the country without paying anything for the train fare. Most of the people who participated in that convention had come without ticket on the trains. However, while arriving they had come by different trains at different times whereas while going back all the people from Madhya Pradesh wanted to go back by the first train available. A huge crowd of over three hundred people both men and women. So a small group of young men and women were sent to the preceding station of Bhatapara to secure the seats in the train for their colleagues who would entrain at Tilda-Nevra . They had decided to catch the train before the stop because the train used to stop for only two minutes in Tilda-Nevra railway station. All three hundred people could not get in the train in that short period of time. So they moved to catch the train in Bhatapara railway station just before the Tilda Nevra railway station.
This front party was divided in 6 or 7 groups each for one compartment. When the train Chhattisgarh Express stopped in Bhatapara railway station for a while all of them entered quickly as planned. They decided to pull the emergency chain to stop the train in Tilda if the rest of the people were not able to get in. As usual the train stopped in the Tilda-Nevra station. People eagerly entered the train without caring for others to see that no one should be left behind. Some of them were ready to pull the chain for stopping the train if there were any difficulties to get into the train. All people were very happy as they expected to reach their destination as they had caught the train.
They were mentally prepared not to give trouble to the ticket holder travellers and were ready to sit on the floor if necessary. No one objected to this huge crowd even in the Raipur junction, which is the capital of Chhattisgarh in India. However, when they reached another Junction Durg, 20 k. m. from Bhilai where there is a big steel plant passengers from Durg station were unable to enter the train as it was fully packed by local and Tribal people from different parts of the country. Few people entered and got their seats but when more people came there and saw that there was no possibility of entering because common people were standing in the way, they asked the common people to get down and also called the police. When the crowd refused to come down from the compartment, the police intervened and started throwing the common people from the compartment. They shouted that there was no permission for entering without reservation and abused them asking where had they come from? The police started beating them with their batons. All women and men were threatened to get down from the compartment. In that situation the ticket holders were divided in two parts, few were inside in the compartment and most of them were on the platform. There were no lady police, so the police men could not touch the women led by their women activist leaders. These four women leaders opposed the policemen in such a brave manner that there was a stalemate. Getting a chance two women pulled the chain and stopped the train and the other two got the men to get into the train while holding the doors to prevent the regular ticket holders from entering the train.
Then, seeing that the activist women had made matters difficult for the train to move ahead, the police men tried to convince these women that they should not to take the law in their hands and let the train leave immediately as otherwise they would be taken in police custody. These four women were concerned about taking their people in the train back to their home. They had no money to buy tickets and could not wait for other trains. So the women asked the police men to inform the railway department to include one more compartment for them. In such a hot situation the women persisted in stopping the train by hanging to hold down the chain and their hands became red. So they used to use their hands by turns to keep the chain pulled and this lasted for one hour as the women were scared that if they let go then the train would start and their people would remain on the platform. The hands became red, and the shoulders were paining. Then they exchanged their role by turns with the women who were guarding the doors to manage the whole show as well as possible. Holding down the chain was a big challenge but it was made possible. In this way they succeeded in keeping the train stationary.
Most of the ticket holding passengers became angry for the delay in the train and continuously questioned and berated the crusading women and seemed worried about their delayed time schedule. After 20 minutes some of the police men announced the availability of a separate compartment for the common people and warned them not to enter in other compartments. Somehow all three hundred people were accommodated in one compartment and packed together as a bundle of grass ..... some of them laid themselves down atop the shelf for luggage , others under the seats and the rest of the people sat packed together like sardines. Nevertheless they sang and laughed throughout the night till they reached Bhopal because they had succeeded in getting a special compartment to go home in.
Those were the heydays of mass organisational mobilisation in this country when the trains were used to transport without any money, poor people protesting for their rights. Over the past two decades the amount of security on trains has increased many times and such free movement is now a thing of the past and consequently big mass mobilisations now have to take place on foot.