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We almost missed the train leaving New Delhi railway station at 6.05 am. My colleague and I were headed to Jaipur for an office meeting. Immersed in work, it took us a while to realise that the train hadn’t moved for about 30 minutes. We were holed up at a place called Khairthal, somewhere between Rewari and Alwar. We heard some noise and soon after, a stone smashed into a window in our coach. Outside, hordes of angry men carrying large lathis and blue flags, their faces painted blue, were in action. Some looked like teenagers, there were even two kids. We ducked under our seats. The train staff shut and bolted all the doors. Some passengers drew the curtains over the windows, so as to not attract attention. We couldn’t understand what was happening, and were obviously dead scared. It was chaos.
By now it was about 10 in the morning. We checked the internet and realised this was a Bharat Bandh protest in progress. We saw the lathiwielding men outside clicking pictures and recording videos of themselves around our train. They were not just walking on the platform, but right next to our train. Some of them were laughing. A few hours later, some women joined them too – both young and old.
The stone-pelting lasted about 10 minutes. The fear stayed longer. We were surrounded from all sides. I packed away my laptop and other belongings just in case the situation escalated and I needed to make a run. My coach was relatively empty. There were maybe 20-25 men and two women. At times like these, the first thought that strikes you is how vulnerable you are. Everyone in my coach was calling back home, talking to people, taking pictures and making videos. I was constantly on the phone too, talking to friends, family and colleagues.
By about 2pm, we were served biscuits and tea. Shortly, two constables – a man and a lady – came into our coach. A train official reassured us that everything would be fine. By now we were less scared, but still worried. We wondered if we would have to spend the night stranded in a train. By 5.30, the train had started moving again. By 8.40 pm, we had just crossed Rewari and were still 100 kms away from Delhi.