Mumbai, Oct. 28: A passenger on the double-decker hijacked by Rahul Raj yesterday said the police were right to gun down the Patna youth who had gone berserk and shot at a commuter.
The man had lost his mind; he was angry and violent. He could have done anything any moment, said Abdul Rashid Sheikh, a bank general manager, who was among the 12-15 hostages on the upper deck.
We had ducked below the seat and so the police, from outside, could not figure out how many we were. Rahul ordered us to stand so the police could see us. We later heard gunshots and saw it was all over.
Bihar politicians have alleged the police — who fired from outside and then stormed the bus — shot Rahul without trying to negotiate or overpower him or letting him surrender. But Sheikh said: The police tried to persuade him for nearly 10 minutes.
He said the lone wounded passenger, Manoj Bhagat — whom, he claimed, Rahul had chained to the staircase — was shot by the hijacker though officers havent ruled out a hit by police.
We had our backs to Rahul but heard gunshots. Bhagat cried out in pain: Mujhe goli lagi hai (Ive been hit). This was before police arrived.
Lower-deck conductor Shivaji Borade, 51, too said: The police had no option but to fire.
He said Rahul had shot at a constable, Sampat Sathe, when he approached the bus after it stopped before Bail Bazaar police post. This was before armed police arrived.
Former IPS officer Y.P. Singh said the police action was legally justified but I feel they could have created a buffer zone of 25-30 metres and isolated Rahul by moving people out, so even if he fired he could not hurt anyone. Then they could have asked him to surrender. But the situation developed so fast, it was left to the people on the ground to decide.
Former Punjab police chief and counter-militancy star Julio Ribeiro, during whose 1980s tenure as Mumbai top cop the city reported its first encounters, backed the police: The person on the ground is best positioned to take the decision; what they did was right.