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Murder and mayhem at Mumbai airport

Mumbai, May 24: A constable of the Central Industrial Security Force shot dead his superior and took six colleagues hostage at the Sahar terminal of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai this evening.

The six-hour hostage drama ended 40 minutes after midnight when constable Raj Namdev was persuaded by his parents to surrender.

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, CISF inspector-general S.S. Kirpekar and deputy commissioner of police Bipin Bihari were present when he gave himself up, officials said.

Namdev has been taken to the crime branch and charged with murder.

The mayhem started around 6.30 pm when the 22-year-old fired nine rounds at his senior, deputy commandant A.R. Karandikar, and then herded six CISF personnel into an enclosure in the departure lounge.

The 49-year-old Karandikar succumbed to injuries in hospital. One person was seriously wounded.

The immediate provocation for the outburst seems to have been the rejection of Namdev’s request for leave to attend his father’s operation tomorrow.

Namdev’s mother, who had rushed to the airport with her daughter after getting an SOS from the authorities, said her son had worked a 12-hour shift from five in the morning and had returned to ask for leave for his father’s operation.

According to airport officials, the constable, after being denied leave, took the self-loading rifle from a colleague and opened fire at his superior. After taking his colleagues hostage, he demanded to talk to the media to “express his frustration”.

The police, who were trying to calm the constable “psychologically” by talking to him over the one phone in the enclosure, sent an SOS to his family.

Namdev’s mother initially failed to persuade her son to give himself up. Later, his father, a retired government official, joined her. It took the parents one-and-a-half hours to convince him.

Bihari, who was one of the intermediaries, said “service conditions seem to be the main reason” for the outburst.

Bhujbal said Namdev’s complaint was that he had to put in extremely long hours and had no leave. The working condition also was very stringent, the deputy chief minister added.

Security at the Mumbai airport, labelled top priority by the administration, had been given to the CISF around eight months ago. For the jawans it is gruelling work and many had their leave cancelled due to the consistent threat and the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

During the surrender drama, the administration had sent a message to Namdev, a resident of Chembur (east), urging him to come out and assuring him that commandos would not be sent in. Bhujbal said “Namdev was assured that no commando action will be taken if he surrendered immediately”.

In Pune, away from the scene of frenzy, a pall of gloom descended at Karandikar’s Pimpri residence. “Please don’t ask any questions,” his niece, Aparna, said when contacted. “We are shattered and not in a frame of mind to answer anything.”

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