Mumbai: A young man from India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh was lynched in a running suburban train by a gang that waited only to find out whether he and his friends were 'bhaiyyas' before they began the assault, police said on Wednesday, as Mumbai recorded one more incident of violence against non-Maharashtrians.
Four security guards were on the Khopoli-Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train on Tuesday night when Dharamdev Ramnarain Rai (25), a labourer working in a factory in Khopoli near this Maharashtra capital, was killed.
The incident - only a day after Bihar youth Rahul Raj was shot dead by police after he attacked the conductor of a bus and fired at a passenger - has prompted the union home ministry to seek a report from the Maharashtra government on the circumstances leading to the death as well as over the security of other non-Maharashtrians.
The home ministry has also called for a meeting.
Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil said the lynching was not a hate crime but due to an argument over seats.
Government Railway Police (GRP) Commissioner Ashok K. Sharma said: "Usually, there are two guards on each local train but yesterday there were four, two each in the first and last compartments of the nine-coach train. However, this unfortunate incident happened in the third compartment when the train was moving at a fast speed. So the guards could do nothing."
Dharamdev was severely thrashed shortly before the train approached Karjat while his friends Dheeraj Verma, Virendra Rai and Satya Prakash managed to escape with minor injuries.
According to information gleaned from railway officials, the altercation took place over window seats which the four friends grabbed when they boarded the train at Khopoli, 120 km from here, to come to Mumbai.
A group of at least 10 commuters came and demanded that the youth get up from the seat. When they refused, one of them asked them if they were 'bhaiyyas' ('brother', the term used to refer to people from Uttar Pradesh).
The mayhem started when the youths replied in the affirmative. The group of 10 started abusing, slapping and punching them as the train hurtled at a speed of over 80km/h to the next station Neral.
It was all over within a matter of a few minutes. Dharamdev succumbed to his injuries at a police station in Badlapur in the neighbouring Thane district where the GRP finally managed to take control of the situation. Sharma said the GRP had rounded up a few suspects and were questioning them in connection with the gruesome killing.
This is the second time in 10 days that the local trains have been the scene of violence against north Indians living or working in Mumbai. On October 19, young men from Bihar who had come to Mumbai to appear for railway recruitment examinations were targeted and attacked at several railway stations by activists of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Only regrets remain
After only three months in Maharashtra, Dharamdev Ramnarain Rai had decided to come back home to his village in Uttar Pradesh following the increasing attacks against north Indians. Had he taken the decision a little earlier he might still be alive.
The 25-year-old from Goriya Ghat village in east Uttar Pradesh was lynched on a suburban train to Mumbai on Diwali night. The humanities graduate who found work in a steel manufacturing unit in Khopoli, 120 kilometres from Mumbai, had been married for three years and had a 15-month-old daughter. His wife is expecting their second child.
Only regrets, however, remain as all is over.
His grieving father Ram Narain Rai, a teacher in a local school, said: "Dharamdev had made up his mind to return home in view of the escalating attacks against north Indians in Maharashtra."
Detailing the events of the night, Rai said: "My son and his friends Virendra and Satya Prakash kept on pleading for mercy and sought to explain to the MNS activists that they had already made up their mind to leave the state. But the violent group was not prepared to listen to anything and went about thrashing the three helpless boys until they fell unconscious."
With inputs by Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent