Women, men clash again in Bengal over ladies special train

Kolkata, Aug 19 (IANS) In yet another territorial battle on West Bengal’s rail tracks, women clashed with men on Wednesday for the second time in three days to claim back what they said was rightfully theirs — an exclusive train for females sans any member of the opposite gender.

Male passengers resorted to train blockade, alleging that a couple of men were pushed out of the Mathrubhumi Ladies special, three coaches of which were marked ‘general’ by the railway authorities.

Movement of trains was disrupted for over five hours in the morning peak hours as a section of women passengers too blocked rail tracks in five stations in North 24 Parganas district over the marking of the coaches as ‘general’ in the ladies special train.

On Monday, over 20 people including a dozen police personnel were injured in a clash between women and men commuters at the Khardaha railway station on the Sealdah-Ranaghat section.

It started with the railways recently designating three coaches of the Mathrubhumi Ladies Special trains as ‘general’ to include men among the passengers as the trains were running well below capacity, according to an Eastern Railway spokesperson.

Further, he said, some women had asked for a mixed coach to enable accompanying male relatives to board the train.

An irate group of women on Wednesday blocked tracks in the Bamangachhi, Hridaypur, Madhyamgram, Duttapukur, and Birati railway stations on the Sealdah-Krishnagar section of Eastern Railway demanding reversion to the ladies special.

Women in Birati engaged in fist fights and pushed and shoved men to demand the reversion to the old system.

In other stations, men and women shouted at each other, and war of words followed. Opinions among women were, however, divided, conceded the spokesperson.

A female commuter said: “So many women are travelling to work these days. It makes no sense to include male passengers when they are more in number. General coaches will be filled with men only and women will feel unsafe to board these coaches.”

However, another female passenger said the incident wouldn’t have happened if the policy of the railways was different.

“There would have been no need for ladies special trains had 40 percent of the seats in all suburban trains been reserved for women travellers,” said the passenger.

Some men alleged they were “pushed” outside the ‘general’ coach. Some couldn’t climb aboard.

“My friend was pushed out. They (the women) asked us why had we entered the coach. When we said it was ‘general’, they refused to listen,” said Pradip Sikdar, a commuter.

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