The bullet mark on a painting after the firing at Marwari College in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
It was an afternoon of anarchy at Marwari College in Ranchi as three men on a bike opened fire and a lobbed crude bomb on the busy and well-guarded campus conducting selection trials for a forthcoming inter-university youth festival.
Though two rounds were fired — one of them in the air — during the 30-second gun attack, the shock was enough to send more than 1,000 students scurrying for cover in anticipation of mayhem.
Police and college authorities are yet to nail the reason behind what is being seen as an unprecedented incident.
According to college principal U.C. Mehta, the firing took place around 1.45pm, when students from different constituent colleges of Ranchi University were appearing for final selections for the 28th Inter-university East Zone Youth Festival, scheduled at Jaipal Singh Mega Sports Complex in Hotwar from December 4 to 8.
“I was inside Vivekananda Auditorium watching the trials when someone informed me. I rushed outside to see a bullet mark on a painting outside the hall. A round object trussed up with rope was lying in a corner of the campus. I heard a student saying it was an unexploded crude bomb. We are fortunate no one was injured,” Mehta said, adding that the trials continued after a brief pause.
Around 18 armed policemen were guarding the campus so that the selection was conducted peacefully.
One of them, requesting anonymity, said the subversive operation barely lasted 30 seconds and they had little time to react. “Three youths came on a motorbike, threw a crude bomb inside the campus and fired two rounds from the southern gate. They first fired in the air and then fired again targeting the auditorium, where the selections were going on,” he said.
“We were standing 50 metres away and did not anticipate such action when the youths slowed down their bike. Before we realised what they were up to, the three were speeding. We chased them, but could not catch them. We had guns, but there were innocent people on the road,” he added.
A participant from Ranchi College, who witnessed the attack, said he mistook the first round for a cracker. “But, then I heard another bang. I also noticed college guard Mahadeo Chandra Mandal for cover. Something was not right and I rushed to the hall for safety. We perhaps anticipated that the firing would continue. Fortunately, it did not,” he said, not willing to be named either.
Deputy superintendent of police (city) S.P. Singh said an FIR had been registered in connection with the incident at Hindpiri police station. “Efforts are on to identify the trio. We are also investigating the trigger of the attack, though we suspect entry restrictions imposed by the college administration for the selection trials may have angered some youths,” he said.