ALIPURDUAR: A 29-year-old man died after his train was delayed by over 10 hours due to the rail roko agitation by GCPA members for Union territory status or C category statehood for Cooch Behar.
The rail roko at New Cooch Behar railway station continued despite the appeal by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to the protesters in Cooch Behar and Haryana to not block railway lines or harm railway properties as it inconvenienced the common people.
Benoy Thakur (29), a resident of Bihar's Begusarai, had boarded Kanchenjungha Express last evening at Guwahati with his wife to travel to Kishanganj. The train was delayed by over 10 hours as it was stranded in the blockade and the man fell ill, GRP officials here said.
He vomited several times and his condition deteriorated but could not be given any medical aid. The general compartment in which he was travelling was also extremely crowded due to the late running of the train, they said.
When the train reached Alipurduar Junction station at 4 pm instead of the scheduled 6 am via Samoktola railway station, Thakur was rushed to Alipurduar Railway Hospital where he was declared brought dead, hospital sources said.
Appealing to protesters who have blocked railway lines in Cooch Behar and Haryana, Suresh Prabhu said at a programme in Kolkata, "You can always have a right to demonstrate. That is a democratic right, we respect that right. But we appeal to you that it is the common people of India who face most inconvenience."
"We wanted to launch a project in Cooch Behar but couldn't do it due to the ongoing agitation there. So let me take this opportunity to tell all the demonstrators, who may have genuine grievance. They should not block the railway tracks for doing that," he said.
Trains are still stranded in various stations of the area, popularly known as the 'chicken's neck', which connects the eastern and north eastern parts of the country. Some trains are also being diverted, Railway officials said. A Northeast Frontier Railway spokesman said in Guwahati, the NFR headquarters, that local trains in New Jalpaiguri-Coochbehar section have been cancelled as the main line was closed and all major long distance trains were diverted via New Bongaigaon-Samoktola, Alipurduar, Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri junction routes.
The Coochbehar-Changrabanda-Siliguri train service, to be inaugurated today through remote control from Kolkata was cancelled due to the agitation, he said.
To this Greater Cooch Behar Peoples Association (GCPA) leader Bangshi Badan Barman told PTI it was unfortunate that the inaugural journey of a new train has been cancelled. But it was another example of neglecting Cooch Behar and Railway officials should have come to the station to flag off the new train.
"The stranded rail passengers are suffering but the people of Cooch Behar have been suffering for the past 66 years," he said in defence of the agitation.
Members of GCPA squatted on railway tracks in New Cooch Behar station for the second day demanding that representatives of the Union Home Ministry come and talk to them.
Barman said the agitation would not be withdrawn until their demand of making Cooch Behar a C category state or Union Territory was accepted.
Cooch Behar, he said, was included in India following an agreement between the then Maharaja of Cooch Behar and the Government of India. Cooch Behar enjoyed status of C category state for about three months but the then Chief Minister of West Bengal Bidhan Chandra Roy included it into the state as a district.
Four express trains to north Bengal and Assam were cancelled from Kolkata by Eastern Railways.
They were Howrah-Dibrugarh Kamrup Express, Howrah-Guwahati Saraighat Express, Sealdah-New Alipurduar Teesta Torsha Express and Sealdah-New Cooch Behar Uttarbanga Express, ER sources said.