Railway attacks during hartal-blockade: Hotspots and patterns
Since the foiled BNP rally on October 28, the political situation has heated up with near-constant blockades and hartals. This has resulted in sustained violence across the country, with railway passengers and infrastructure becoming major targets.
On December 19, four people, including a woman and a three-year-old child, were killed after arsonists set on fire three coaches of the Dhaka-bound Mohanganj Express as it left Tejgaon station.
Between November 16 and December 19, there have been six instances of coaches of passenger trains being set on fire. Additionally, on December 13, 20 feet of track was removed from a section of the line between Bhawal Gazipur and Rajendrapur, killing one.
Looking at the details of these incidents, all seven of these incidents took place late at night and in the early hours of the morning, between 9:00pm and 5:00am.
The two deadly incidents, the fire at Tejgaon Station and the track removal in Gazipur, both took place in the early hours of the morning, between 4:00am and 5:00am. In both cases, the train affected was the Dhaka-bound Mohanganj Express.
According to correspondence among officials of Bangladesh Railway, seen by The Daily Star, the Western zone reported 17 incidents of damages caused between October 31 and December 5, while the Eastern zone reported 24 incidents between October 28 and December 13. Two more incidents have occurred since then on December 15 and December 19.
Of this, there have been 13 instances of the rail lines being set on fire, as well as incidents of fire being set on one booking counter, two level crossing gates, and a project office adjacent to the station in Dhaka.
There have been six occasions of fire being set to train coaches as well, as mentioned before. The fire on Jamuna Express in Sarishabari, Jamalpur on November 19; the one on Uttara Express between Jamalganj and Joypurhat on December 15, and the most recent blaze in Dhaka's Tejgaon were all set on running trains.
The fires on Tangail Commuter in Tangail Station in Gharinda on November 16, and Upaban Express in Sylhet on November 22 were set when the trains were waiting in the station. On November 27, a mail train that was sent to the rail wash pit was set on fire in Ishwardi.
All of these incidents of train coaches being set on fire took place between 9:00pm and 2:53am, late at night.
Other than these fires, there have been seven instances of crude bombs being hurled towards trains. On five of these occasions, it was reported that the bombs exploded.
Across the country, three instances of rail lines being damaged also took place. On two of these occasions, fishplates were removed, while 20 feet of track was removed in Gazipur resulting in a lot of damage.
The geographical locations of these incidents seem to focus on certain hotspots of rail activity in the country. Seven incidents have taken place in and around Joydebpur, located in Gazipur district, with the section of rail between Joydebpur and Mouchak seeing one instance of fire, one crude bomb, while fishplates and bolts were also removed from a bridge. The section of track between Mouchak and Hi-tech City Railway Station has been set on fire twice, as has the track between Dhirasram and Joydebpur. The incident of 20 feet of track being removed also happened inside Gazipur district.
Within the same region, railway infrastructure and passengers have come under attack in Tangail and Narsingdi too.
There have been six incidents of fire being set on either track or coach in the greater Mymensingh region, including Kishoreganj, Jamalpur, and Netrokona.
Within Dhaka, there have been three instances of arson on the railway.