I came across a media release that was issued today by the WBUJ (West Bengal Union of Journalists) who are demanding compensation for injured journalists. An “irresponsible act” leaves six journalists seriously injured in India.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) who represent more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries is shocked by reports that six journalists were seriously injured with one losing both eyes and another in a critical condition, after the police staged an “action replay” of diffusing mines planted by Maoist Terrorists in the early hours of September 21st at Lalgarth , West Bengal, India.
According to the West Bengal Union of Journalists (WBUJ) the incident was a publicity stunt which went horribly wrong, with two police officers killed, another two injured and six journalists hospitalised. One photographer Someswar Mondal lost both his eyes and another is fighting for his life in hospital. The other four journalists are seriously ill in hospital. The IFJ President, Christopher Warren said that the police should be held responsible for this irresponsible act and is calling for a full and independent investigation into the matter.
One would imagine that in this day and age, more care would be taken to ensure that this kind of thing did not happen. A stunt should not turn out in this way. The history of the stuntsters does have a shameful side. A number of the crazies who operated on the irresponsible side of the craft make Jackass look like the first series of Sesame Street. Looking over my notes I have uncovered the best example of stunt insanity and it seems from the incident in West Bengal, that in 100 years, people have not learnt their lesson. I read that Railroads were the first companies to hire stuntsters to generate attention for their corporate endeavours of opening up new lines across new territories. In 1896, the Missouri Kansas and Texas Railroad came up with a ridiculous idea of staging a head on crash as a publicity mechanic to highlight a new line in Texas.
A site was selected for the “publicity crash” in an area between Waco and Dallas, which in those days was perfectly desolate.
There were no cars and no highways, just some dirt trails and the railroad tracks, the only connections between two towns. A man appropriately named William Crush was put in charge of every aspect of the show. Not only was he responsible for planning and publicizing the crash, but it was also his job to create a small makeshift town for the thousands of people expected to gather at the barren site. Two disused locomotives were refurbished for the spectacle. Since this was the first time a collision had actually been staged, no one was sure what would happen. One veteran railroad man predicted that the boilers in the steam engines would explode on impact, sending dangerous debris flying through the area, but this possibility was discounted by Crush and every one else.
Huge crowds arrived on the appointed day, including a host of journalists and photographers. According to some estimates, as many as fifty thousand people converged on the spot, all packed together on the hillsides that gently sloped up from the site. When the great moment finally approached, the two locomotives raced at each other from the opposite points, attaining a speed of about sixty miles an hour. As they sped along to their final collision, they set off cherry bombs that had been fastened to the tracks to make the crash more believable. When the trains met, the explosion was much more than the spectators had bargained for. Large pieces of the engines flew into the crowd and the people were too densely packed to run. Hundreds were injured and 28 onlookers had to be admitted to hospital. This was not at all the outcome one would hope for in a publicity stunt.
To be sure, newspapers and around the country covered the story, but other railroads were effectively dissuaded from ever trying to stage such an event. As for opening up the territory, today, close to one hundred years later, the site of the crash is still barren and unpopulated.