Earphones, Strolls, Wrong Turns — How Lives Are Derailing in Kashmir

Representational Photo

At a time when road accidents are constantly consuming lives in Jammu and Kashmir, the railway casualties remain the unnoticed tragedy.

EVEN before a train would arrive at Budgam terminal on the misty morning of November 15, came a familiar newsflash about a man losing his life on tracks.

The fresh fatality quickly shifted focus to Kashmir’s terminal deaths being shrugged as the sporadic calamity.

While officials blame casual walks and carelessness for these derailed lives, people assert that such deaths are inevitable due to proximity of railway tracks with their farms and habitats.

Before the recent railway casualty, a Pulwama man was mowed down by a train in South Kashmir on July 2022, while in February this year, Zakir Khatana, 25, of Lolab was killed after hit by a train near Wanabal, Budgam.

Zakir was crossing railway track when hit by train. This was second such incident in 24 hours. Earlier, a man was crushed to death by a moving train at Budgam railway section.

The data suggests a clear hike in these deaths since 2017.

Around seven people lost their lives on rail tracks of the valley in 2017. The number grew to 12 in 2018.

While six people died in 2021, some five people have already lost their lives in the calendar year.

Notably, no death was reported in 2020 due to the Covid lockdown.

Despite these low-intensity deaths escalating tragedies in Kashmir, people are wondering about a way out.

“We live in constant fear,” Mohammed Aftab Bhat, a Budgam resident living near a railway track, told Kashmir Observer.

“Any of our moves here or there is actually becoming a casualty. Our children are not able to move out. We live under the perennial threat of losing our lives.”

Kashmir got its first train service in 2013. It was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The train was termed as a sign of development,” said Muzaffar Ali, another Budgam resident, “but it has only tormented our lives. We’ve seen a lot of people losing their lives on these killer tracks.”

In many places, Muzaffar said, trains pass through no-man’s land. “But here it goes through agricultural lands,” he said. “What do they expect, we shouldn’t venture out?”

Around 19 trains are operational in JK, with seven trains regularly carrying almost 30,000 passengers, including students and employees, on the 137-kilometer Baramulla-Banihal sector.

“Most of the railway casualties are genuine cases of carelessness,” Saqib Yousuf, Chief Area Manager Srinagar, Northern Railways, told Kashmir Observer.

“Despite repeated warnings, people casually walk on these railway tracks unmindful about train timings and speed. It’s an offense to walk on tracks. People should understand that.”

Besides counseling people, Saqib said, railway authorities have always stressed upon the train drivers to use whistling more frequently especially in critical areas.

“Many of the victims were hit by a train as they were wearing earphones and carrying mobiles in their hands,” the railway officer said.

“People have to act responsibly to keep such incidents at bay in future as it is not possible to deploy manpower all along the tracks.”

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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