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August 1, 2003

Bandh chaos claims a silent victim

From: Mumbai Newsline, India - Aug 1, 2003

Express News Service

Mumbai, July 31: Manoj Malap (24), who has been deaf and mute since childhood, lived to regret going to work on the day of a bandh—but only just.

He became one of the bandh's silent victims when, amid the chaos of a rail roko, he fell beneath a train and lost his leg.

A resident of Dadar, Manoj set out for his work at a gum-making factory on Wednesday morning in Kandivili despite the bandh. Finding it was closed, he set off home again.

At the station, a rail roko had stopped a fast train from Virar on its way to Churchgate and he managed to get on. But it was again stopped by a roko at Malad for 10 minutes.

Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party activists declared the train cancelled and urged commuters to get off.

Malap was climbing the stairs to the next platform with the rest of the passengers when the train behind them started to move off.

Chaos ensued at commuters turned back and ran, throwing themselves onto the train. In the melee, Malap tried to jump and fell between the train and platform.

The train ran over him, severing his right leg and causing a compound fracture in his left.

With the platform packed with panicked commuters, it took 20 minutes before he was admitted to Bhagwati Hospital.

As he is mute, had trouble identifying him until his name was revealed by a jeweller whose business card they found in Malap's bag. Doctors operated immediately and he is now stable.

His mother, Vijaya Vishram Malap (46) is a widow who works at a municipal school in Wadala to support her two sons and daughter.

Now she cannot conceal her grief. "Manoj has been working for 8 years," she said. "He was accustomed to travel by train. Nothing bad ever happened to him."

Vijaya tried in vain to hold back the tears: "Now what he will do? He only studied up to 5th standard."

Malap's family puts some of the blame for his accident on the distance between the platform and the train, which they believe is too high.

Despite her grief, Vijaya doesn't criticise the activists who caused the chaos that led to Manoj's accident. But not so his relatives, who remain angry that none of them went to visit him in hospital.

© 2002: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.