Rail communications of Dhaka with other parts of the country were suspended for nearly two hours on Monday
Hundreds of train passengers endured sufferings for nearly two hours due to unscheduled delays caused by a sudden halt of services by rail employees on Monday.
But what exactly triggered such wildcat service stoppage by the gatemen remained a mystery.
While concerned gateman brought allegations of power abuse and assault against a section of law enforcers on that day at a crossing near Airport Railway Station in the city, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) claimed that the person concerned (gateman posted at Koshai Bazar level crossing) was involved in extortion and drug smuggling.
Rail communications of Dhaka with other parts of the country were suspended for nearly two hours on Monday as employees and gatemen of Bangladesh Railway stopped their duties in Dhaka protesting against an assault on one of their colleagues allegedly by the members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
The train services were halted from 2:50pm to 4:40pm before high officials from both the authorities intervened to resolve the crisis.
A team of RAB 1 went to Koshai Bazar level crossing at Uttara on the day to apprehend and interrogate gateman Al Amin, 35, who they claimed is a drug smuggler and involved in extortion.
Al Amin got into an altercation with the law enforcement members, RAB said.
However, the versions of Al Amin, his family, and an eyewitness do not correspond with the RAB ones.
Dhaka Tribune made contact with Al Amin, who was initially reluctant to talk to media over the matter, but said later that he was beaten up by the battalion personnel and got injured. He also claimed the allegation RAB brought against him is absolutely fictitious.
Station Master of Airport Railway Station Maran Chandra Das said the authorities granted him a one week leave to get proper treatment.
Al Amin could not talk much with this correspondent over phone as his wife Salma Akter said he had a profuse bleeding in his lips after the beating.
What happened on the day?
When asked, gateman Al Amin told Dhaka Tribune that some three to four plainclothes RAB members, in a vehicle, were on their way to cross the Koshai Bazar level crossing near the Airport Railway Station, around 11:30am on Monday.
"They asked me to lift the barrier so that they can cross it. But I denied and asked them to wait as the Chittagong-bound train Karnaphuli Express was about to cross the level crossing."
Quoting Al Amin, Salma Akter said: "My husband told them [RAB members] that, in such circumstances, even the prime minister cannot cross the level crossing."
Later on, some uniformed battalion personnel joined the plainclothes members and took him to the gateman's room, she said.
"They punched my husband."
"After the incident, senior officials advised us to take leave and go to the village. We followed their order," she added.
A banana trader nearby the level crossing, Hanif Ali, 50, was an eyewitness of the incident.
He said: "I approached the spot hearing the chaos. I heard the sound of beating and crying coming out from inside the gateman's room. There were three to four uniformed RAB members standing outside the room. Later, they picked up Al Amin in their car and left the spot."
Train communications suspended
As soon as the news of assault spread, agitated gatemen of nearby level crossings and other employees of Bangladesh Railway, blocked railway by stopping their duties. The train services got snapped with Dhaka and other parts of the country from 2:50pm to 4:40pm.
After the release of Al Amin from the RAB custody, agitated gatemen and employees returned to their duties, railway officials said.
Dhaka-bound Maitree Express from India, Dhaka-bound Upakul Express from Noakhali, and Tangail-bound commuter train from Dhaka became stranded in different areas due to the suspension.
RAB version contradicts of Al Amin
When asked, Lt Col Sarwar Bin Kashem, director of the legal and media wing of RAB, said on Monday that they went to quiz the gatemen following complaints against him on drug smuggling and extortion.
"We went there to bring him into our custody for interrogation. But not only he misbehaved with our officials, but also got involved in altercation with them." he claimed.
However, Al Amin denied such allegation and said that he never had a cigarette or betel leaf.
"The allegation is fabricated."
Hanif Ali said: "So far I know, Al Amin never puffed a cigarette or chewed betel leaf, and is not involved in any illegal activities.
"Drug smuggling is a fake allegation brought against him," he added.