Even two weeks after they were not allowed to board the Shramik special train to Manipur on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, 21 students of Darul Uloom in Tandalja in Vadodara and some 140 more boys from Islamic schools in other Gujarat cities and villages are still groping in the dark for a way to reach their homes.
Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India
THANKS to the lack of coordination between the governments of two Bhartiya Janata Party-ruled states, scores of home-bound Muslim students hailing from the northeastern state of Manipur and studying in madrassas in the western Indian state of Gujarat have been left in the lurch even as the killer Coronavirus crisis worsened in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native place on June 6.
Even two weeks after they were not allowed to board the Shramik special train to Manipur on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, 21 students of the hallowed Darul Uloom in Tandalja in Vadodara as well as some 140 more boys from Islamic schools in other Gujarat cities and villages are still groping in the dark for a way to reach their homes.
On May 23, as the deadly pathogen continued to claim more lives in Gujarat, the homesick Tandalja ‘talibs’, aged between 14 and 24, were as pleased as Punch when they were told that they would be taken to Manipur by a train from Bharuch station, 80 km away, but little did they know that their arduous journey had just begun.
The 21 students were shell-shocked when the local administration asked them to cough up an astronomical amount of Rs 6,500 as bus fare — Rs 310 each — to Bharuch instead of the government picking up the tab as was obvious what with no nodal officer also accompanying them to guide them during their two-hour trip.
The skullcapped Pangals, however, were on cloud 9 when they reached Bharuch station much before the scheduled 11 pm departure of their train. But the group, along with 140 more students from other madrassas, was made to stand in queue for 90 minutes on the platform with all valid documents — Aadhar card, confirmed ticket and corona-negative certificate — ready in their hands.
However, the young seminarians, already fagged out from a long wait, were thunderstruck when the 1,200-capacity Manipur-bound train suddenly chugged out of the Bharuch station at 11.55 pm with 750 passengers without any railway official explaining them why they were left out.
“We had all necessary papers and valid tickets. Five coaches were empty but, for some mysterious reasons, we were just not told to board the train which left without any hint,” Kamaluddin Manipuri (24) of Tandalja Darul Uloom told Clarion India.
While a Bharuch local leader Kamthi Abdul told journalists that hatemongers among officials were responsible for the ugly incident, many see it as a bid to humiliate Ahmed Patel, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, who was instrumental in sending migrants by two Shramik special trains earlier from Bharuch.
Said Zuber Gopalani, popular community leader and educationist: “There is a lack of coordination and communication between Gujarat and Manipur governments who should rather be on their toes in these crucial corona times.”
Shockingly enough, troubles of stranded Manipurians were far from over. After the train left Bharuch station, the hungry students wandered on the platform in the dead of night for two hours but no official offered them any food or other help but baton-weilding policemen instead drove them out.
“At long last, we were taken back to Vadodara by bus which dropped us at a shanty-like shelter home in Bhayli on the outskirts of the city at 5 am. But 21 of us from Tandalja Darul Uloom were dumped into one room without any food or facility and were told to stay put till another train is arranged for us,” informed another student, Mohammed Nawaz Khan.
Luckily for them, at 1 pm, when Mufti Arif Hakim, principal and managing trustee of the Darul Uloom, got wind of their plight, he made sure that the bruised and battered students were brought to the seminary by five cars.
“Two weeks have passed since the boys were brought back here. Though they are being looked after well by advocate Ashfaq Malek’s dedicated volunteers, younger among the teens have been crying now and then as they feel homesick and sorely miss their parents who have been constantly calling them from Manipur. But we are clueless when a train will be arranged for them,” lamented Mufti Arif Hakim.
While Gujarat state nodal officer Harshad Patel remained elusive despite countless calls, Vadodara deputy collector R P Joshi told this correspondent that he was hopeful that a solution would be found within a couple of days.
“A Shramik special train for Nagaland was likely to leave Ahmedabad soon. Vadodara’s Manipur residents could be accommodated in that train. The two state administrations could sort it out,” he said.
While the Delhi Association of Manipur Muslim Students has “highly condemned the act of discrimination and exclusion” of Muslim students, the All Manipur Muslim Students’ Organisation has demanded an inquiry by a special investigating team into the reasons why the seminarians were not allowed to board the train at the Bharuch station.