Turn the Page, Turn the Life | A Writer’s Battle for Survival | Help Her Win
Turn the Page, Turn the Life | A Writer’s Battle for Survival | Help Her Win

Raju Ganapathy



Raju Ganapathy


Murder On The Train 16666

Murder On The Train 16666

7 mins

It was raining hard that night when the special train no 16666 left Bangalore for Kochuveli at 11 pm. Paneerselvam and his daughter Kasturi boarded the train in coach S-7. They had made prior reservation. A lower and a middle berth were allotted to them. Paneer Selvam was a Gandhian social worker and was known for his righteous ways in his town near Erode. Train would reach Erode sometime early in the morning. 

Paneerselvam was quite annoyed to see the coach was more than full. Many passengers without reservation had boarded the train and he didn’t see any TTE around to make a complaint. He knew about the rail-madad app, and he decided to make a complaint in that. He got lucky and the complaint got registered. At Hosur the railway police came and asked some passengers without reservation in his cubicle to move on. Paneerselvam cursed the railways. He felt that it was cheating the reserved passengers. A co-passenger lamented that it was only three and two-tier air-conditioned coaches that gave sanctity of reservation. Now a days travelling in sleeper class is like a cattle-shed as one MP had observed about economy class in airlines. The passenger added that he has travelled in north India and this culture of forcefully occupying sleeper class was catching up in the south too with the connivance of railways.  

Anyway, as it was late, they decided to sleep after switching of the light. But Paneerselvam could not sleep at all. He and his daughter had joined the walk for unity from Trissur, crossed the border into Karnataka and walked till Mysore. Then his knees began to groan and got swollen. Then based on the advice of the doctor who accompanied the walk he decided to call it quits and get back to Erode. Memories of the journey was flooding his mind. 

Paneerselvam’s dad was also a freedom fighter and has rubbed shoulders with the Mahatma, Nehru, Sardar Patel. He regaled Paneerselvam with stories of freedom struggle. Paneerselvam felt goose pimples whenever he heard those stories and still felt the goose pimples whenever memories came flooding. It was one such night on the train. As it happens to people who have crossed sixty if you don’t sleep then the bladder pressure troubles you to visit the toilet often. 

Kasturi knew that her dad was restless in the night. She attributed it to the train journey and also to the exciting unity walk they had done for the past two weeks. She herself was caught up in the memories and excitement of the yatra. She being young fell asleep soon but she remembered to set the alarm for twenty minutes before the expected time of arrival at Erode. 

When the alarm rang, she got up to find that her dad was missing from the berth. She thought he might have gone use the toilet. It was just few minutes for the train to reach Erode and no sign of her dad. She rushed to the nearby toilet and found one with door slightly ajar and she screamed when she opened it. Her dad’s body was lying in a collapsed state with blood all over. 

Some passengers rushed to the spot, and they too joined the scream. The train chugged into the Erode station by then.

Railway police rushed to the spot and removed the body. Somebody had phoned the local police and when the constable heard of the name Pannerselvam he dialled the Inspector of Police who came in with a posse of police and took custody of the body after a severe quarrel over jurisdiction when his power prevailed over the railway police. In the meantime, as it was customary for the contractors to clean the toilet in the trains, they cleaned the toilet where the murder had taken place wiping out any evidence that could have been collected by the forensics. It was another goof up on the part of the railways that one police stood guard at the toilet. Train finally left the station after a delay of two hours at Erode carrying the murderer with it. He was never to be caught.

When the news of Paneerselvam’s death spread in the social media and local cable tv there was a spontaneous hartal in Erode vouching for the popularity of Paneerselvam. Even the trains passing through Erode got stopped. Railway Minister got the news and alarmed at public anger announced a high-level probe into the murder knowing well nothing will come out of it. He knew that they had goofed up when the toilet got cleaned up. He wondered what other goof up will be exposed and told his wife that his last days as railway minister has begun. 

Sherlock Holmes of Tamilnadu Crime branch as he was reputed to be known one Mr Velu Prabhakaran was summoned by the office of the Dravidian Chief minister’s office. When he hurriedly went there, he found the law minister and the Commissioner of Police too. The Commissioner informed Velu that he was appointed as a special officer to probe the death of Paneerselvam. He said there will be some jurisdictional dispute between the state and the railways, and they have checked that the state does have jurisdiction since the incident happened in the state. Velu said that all evidence has been wiped out. Commissioner with a wink remarked we don’t expect any results but political brownie points over the railways and by extension against the center. You know what to do and if in doubt call me. 

CM then announced the appointment of the special officer to probe the murder and as expected a turf war ensued and political brownie points were being scored. Round one in the Erode court was won by the state when the magistrate ruled that state had jurisdiction since the incident happened within the state. Further the magistrate added Paneerselvam’s murder has created a major unrest among the people and the state had the responsibility to satisfactorily address it. When the railways appealed against the ruling at Chennai High Court, they lost the case. Not the one to give easily the railways at the behest of the minister filed a case in supreme court as well. The SC declined to have the case urgent listed and pushed the hearing by three weeks. 

In the meantime, Velu daily gave a sensational press update on the investigation and embarrassed the railways. He said more than 100% capacity of tickets were sold at Bangalore for this train prior to few hours of departure. He also added that one TTE was on duty and at the time of incident he was examining tickets at the air-conditioned coaches. He also shared that Paneerselvam had complained to ‘railmadad’ app, and the only response was removal of few passengers from Paneerselvam’s cubicle. He added that vestibules were not shut down providing easy access to coaches. He highlighted the fact that the railway contractor had washed the toilet clean at Erode station cleaning up any evidence that may have been found. In short, he surmised that security was utterly lax for the sleeper coaches and reservation had zero sanctity.

Kasturi at the behest of social worker colleagues filed a case against Railways asking for compensation. The case came up for hearing and the magistrate ruled in her favour and ordered Railways to pay a compensation of Rs One Crore. He further added that Railways provide a written document of Standard Operating Procedures for beefing up security in the train. Looking to the public anger the Railways did not deem it wise to contest the case in the higher court. 

In the condolence meeting of Paneerselvam held after three weeks the CM himself attended and vowed that the values for which Paneerselvam had stood for would be kept in mind by his government. He further enunciated these values to mean no casteism in the society, no majoritarian religious influence in the conduct of governance and no language chauvinism.  

The criminal case got virtually closed as no evidence could be found. The SC was to take up the case for hearing the following day, but no one had any interest as the matter of compensation got dealt with and the political brownie points were already scored. 

Velu Prabhakaran in his closure note to the Commissioner of Police highlighted the following points:


1. The murderer went scot free as all possible evidence were destroyed. 


2. Kasturi got compensation as his investigation shed light on railway’s callousness towards passengers’ security.

3. Politically the centre was pushed to the back foot.

4. Paneerselvam got a statue sanctioned in the city of Erode.

5. Kasturi has been appointed the district president of the grand old party.

6. Railways would have to work out the standard operating procedure for passengers’ security as per court order.

7. The Dravidian CM has gone up in popularity ranks especially in northern Tamilnadu for his handling of the case.

When the commissioner went for a walk with the CM in the morning by the Marina beach, he apprised him of the report from Velu Prabhakaran. CM smiled in satisfaction and said hail Paneerselvam.  

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