In the year 2013, a newlywed couple was travelling from Chattogram on a train to Dhaka. On the way at Bhatiari under Sitakund upazila a stone thrown at the moving train hit the woman, an engineer, on her head, to which she succumbed later on, notwithstanding her admission to Chattogram Medical College Hospital. Again, a Bangladesh Railway inspector died from a similar injury caused when a Khulna-bound train from Benapole was crossing the Daulatpur station. After a 41-day battle for life, the railway employee breathed his last at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in 2018. On September 3 last, an assistant loco master of Kishoreganj express was hit in one of his eyes and he had to be hospitalised with a severe injury.
According to report, at least 150 such stone throwing incidents take place annually in this country. The railway police claim that the highest number of such cases has been reported from Tejgaon, Kamalapur and Bhairab. They observe that usually children from slums along the railway tracks take it as a game. This may be a game to these uneducated and deviated juveniles but it is death to passengers travelling on a train. But not all incidents of pelting stones at moving trains may be sports to the throwers, there may be ulterior motives or even a pathological hatred behind such incidents.
Mind it, buses ---both luxurious and ordinary ---on highways do not come under such attacks. If they did, what would be the consequences? On a busy road chain reactions would have not only been fatal but the cumulative impacts could be many times graver. There is no reason to think that slums are located only along railway tracks. There are slums along the highways as well.
Again, trains are not a new thing in this part of the world. Was there any incident of stone pelting at a moving train in the British period when railway service was introduced or during the Pakistan regime? Perhaps not. Then what really has prompted some slum children to hurl stones at moving trains. Those who argue that the juveniles are not aware of the consequences of doing so, simply miss the point. In fact, the boys take immense pleasure from hitting their targets. They are in a competition to outdo each other. It is a reflection of the increasing psychological aberration that has vitiated society now. A kind of repressed anger, in this case, may have sought to be released in a sadistic form.
When social inequality divides segments poles apart, a pathological hatred born out of deprivation at times compels the neglected and deprived to do things they could not imagine doing at other times when they are sober and curse themselves for their ill luck. What happened during the French Revolution may be a guide to the extreme cruelty and act of violence committed by people intoxicated by their success against the rich and sophisticated class.
Children of the underprivileged segment deserve better. Some people argue that a mass awareness campaign against pelting stones will be of help. But it will not do away with the practice altogether. Better it would be to enroll them for meaningful schooling. Universal education is one of the fundamental human rights. It is society's and the government's combined failure not to bring them under the programme of universal primary education. Casual and ineffective education often offered perfunctorily will only make the matter worse. In a situation like this they will become more aware of their difference and the neglect they suffer.
Until they can be so integrated with society, it would be wise to bring the dangerous spots under constant surveillance and catch the stone throwers red-handed. But they must not be apprehended for punishment but for counselling in child correction centres. The quality of correction centres, however, leaves much to be desired. These centres need funds for better operation and facilities including services of reputed visiting psychologists who can guide the inmates to normal life. The stone throwers can as well repent for their misdeeds and look for better options in life.