As I fly back home from a long vacation tomorrow, this one incident mars my memories. Leaving the city of the Taj Mahal, we caught a train to Amritsar from Agra Cantt. At the station there was a huge presence of armed policemen apparently traveling on election duty. We had comfortable 2nd AC reserved seats for the family in blocks of two. My family’s two seats within a coupe also had an old Punjabi couple. They were very friendly and genial. My younger son and I were getting ready to tuck in for the night when a bunch of men just barged into the reserved compartment. Yes, they were UP Policemen, some in uniform and others in plain clothes with rifles slung on their back. They conveniently sat down on any empty berth they saw. The TTE started arguing with a few instructing them to leave the compartment but to no avail. They laughed and stayed put.
The side upper berth from across our coupe was empty. There was a lady sleeping down with her curtain pulled. Quickly 5 of the men climbed up with their feet hanging down and their rifles stacked behind them. The old lady within the coupe, and I got scared. We pulled our dupattas closer and hurriedly pulled our curtain. The curtain was opened many times by them poking their hands and giggling louder. They were speaking in colloquial Hindi and were passing some really lewd comments peppered with abuses. I wanted to click their picture but was scared for the safety of my family. My husband and my elder son had side berths elsewhere. There again two men sat down and stayed put even after they lay down to sleep.
Apparently the men had boarded from Ghaziabad and from their conversation I heard that they were going to disembark at Meerut or Saharanpur to reach their election duty destinations. Meerut was still a couple of hours ago. The old couple was a bit scared too. The elderly man assured me not to worry. He was a retired army colonel. He asked me to sleep off while aunty kept an eye on my sleeping son in the lower berth. I had an uneasy time on the upper berth but felt safe as uncle was also on the upper berth — alert and awake. The men meanwhile conversed loudly. They also put on radio and played cheap songs in Bhojpuri while people were trying to sleep. None of us protested. Who protests against policemen in those large numbers with big rifles?
There must have been more than 20 of them in our compartment not requesting to be seated but finding whatever place they could find and making themselves at home caring nothing for our inconvenience. Those couple of hours while they sat across opening the curtains constantly and jeering were horrifying. I don’t know whether election commission or the government is aware of this. Could they have not arranged transport buses or something else for their officers traveling on election duty?
Why were we subject to this kind of misconduct? I wonder if there is someplace I can complain about this. But those hours were sheer misery.
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