Lakshman Cheernahally was waiting for two of his friends near the Mandya railway station when he heard that there was some trouble inside.
Mr. Cheernahally, district secretary of the Karnataka Janashakti and a freelance journalist, rushed to the spot to find a group of people being pushed out of one of the unreserved compartments of the Yeshwantpur-Kannur train.
“Some people from inside the compartment were pushing out a group of people who looked like hapless migrant labourers. Another set of people on the platform were pulling them out,” he said.
He learnt it was an “operation” by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), some of whom, travelling on the same train, had spotted “suspicious-looking” passengers they assumed to be illegal Bangladeshi migrants. They had, in turn, told their ABVP colleagues in Mandya to be prepared to catch the “illegal migrants” when the train stopped there.
“The people being pulled out, some even beaten, were being made to sit in a row by the railway police,” said Mr. Cheernahally. “The police were witness to the whole thing. The ABVP activists spoke only Kannada and those being attacked spoke only Hindi.
Mr. Cheernahally and other journalists, speaking to those being detained, learnt they were from Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and other States, and had come for work in the construction industry.
What shocked Mr. Cheernahally was that the police were not only mute witness to this entire “operation”, but seemed to be actively supporting it. “One of the people in the attacking mob is in fact a member of the Mandya City Municipal Council,” he said.