Courage under fire | india | Hindustan Times
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Courage under fire

india Updated: Dec 26, 2008 00:49 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

Ismail Khan and Ajmal Amir Kasab were still holding down the triggers on their AK-47s when Captain R. Tamil Selvan decided he had had enough.

The 50-something parcel contractor at CST rushed out with eight of his staff and began lifting the injured and getting them out of harm’s way.

“I first heard the shots at 9.40 pm. I had just returned from loading parcels on the Kolkata Mail. My staff was busy preparing parcels for the morning trains,” said Selvan. “At first, I thought it was fireworks… a send-off party for some railway officer.”

As terrified passengers, some bleeding, began rushing into the corridors, he realised something was very wrong.
But nothing could have prepared him for the gory sight outside.

“People were lying on the floor, bleeding,” he said. “So many were dead. And about 50 metres away, I could see two men firing in opposite directions, towards the local platforms. An unexploded grenade lay a few feet away. The memories still make my blood boil.”

Selvan’s team began placing the wounded on the pullcarts used for transporting parcels.

“The captain got us all organised and made sure we stayed together,” said senior parcel clerk Vivek Sharma. “He kept us focussed and moved out all the victims as quickly as possible.”

In all, they moved scores of people to nearby St George’s Hospital in 20 minutes. The first ambulance arrived 25 minutes later.

By then, the Captain’s job was done. His courage and quick thinking earned him a felicitation from the Governor.

“But my men were with me every step of the way,” said Selvan. “The two men were still firing and hurling grenades. Had they turned to us, none of us would have survived the AK-47 bullets.”

Thirty-six of the men rescued by Selvan survived. “But I still wake up in the middle of the night, their screams echoing in my ears,” he said.