The tale of the returning migrants

Migrant crisis during lockdown on display at ‘Lokame Tharavadu’

On May 8, 2020, amidst an unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 16 migrant labourers returning to their homes in Madhya Pradesh on foot were mowed down by a freight train between Jalna and Aurangabad in Maharashtra.


An unspeakable tragedy, it remains one of the saddest episodes of a humanitarian crisis caused by a lockdown to stave off the pandemic.

‘Why We Always Return Home’, a collection of artworks by Vipin Dhanurdharan at ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ contemporary art exhibition, commemorates the lives lost on the railway track and sheds light on the migrant crisis during the first wave of the pandemic.

Mr. Dhanurdharan, a self-made artist without academic backing, has prepared a railway track with 12 sleepers to commemorate the tragedy.

Twelve yoga breathing techniques are engraved on the sleepers of the track, a reminder of two different Indias. He has also made an 85-minute video art.

“We have been living with the pandemic for two years. In the beginning, the lockdown was a kind of anxious period. We searched on mobile and the Internet for answers. Like others, I have also seen migrant workers being forced to return.

The death of 16 people on a railway track caused a great deal of unrest.

“Because, at the same time, we are safe to paint and do whatever we like. When I thought about it and read more, the number of 16 was very touching. That’s how I decided to document the incident,” he says, adding “a lot has happened in parallel. So my intention was to tell you about the time”.

Mr. Dhanurdharan, a native of Kollam, made the documentary after travelling for a month with two friends.

After visiting the scene of the accident, they went to the villages of the deceased.

“They went to distant places in search of a better life. That journey ended on the railway track,” he says.

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