When an unspeakable horror descended on Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on Wednesday night, the actions and reactions of security personnel and railway employees would play a crucial role in saving innocent lives.
Senior Police Inspector Sandeep Khiratkar, Police Inspector Kiran Bhosale and Constable Jhullu Yadav were among the dozens of Railway Protection Force personnel who fought the AK-56-wielding terrorists.
Fifty-one-year-old Yadav, in an exceptional display of bravery, took a rifle from a colleague, ran towards the terrorists and fired at them. “He was the bravest among all, and that too at his age,” Khiratkar said. “This was the first time I had a gunfight with terrorists after years of training,” Yadav said. “I wanted to kill them.”
Khiratkar chased the two terrorists till the rear end on the station. Bhosale, who was posted in the mainline concourse, joined him. “It was a fight to save passengers and the station,” the 29-year-old Bhosale said.
Mohammed Sheikh, known as Chottu around the station, serves tea at the booking ticket counter and is quite familiar with the station. He helped many commuters find a safe exit.
“Chottu entered the booking office and locked the door behind him, shouting at us to lie low,” said Ajay Bhatia, a booking supervisor. Brushing aside his role, Sheikh said, “Whenever I remember what happened, I just break down.”
Senior ticket checking officer R.H Dubey, who was posted on the Harbour line section, shielded passengers from the bullets, even helping an old woman carry her luggage, while a fierce gunbattle raged. “I could not think,” Dubey said. “I only knew I had to help the passengers to safety.”
Outstation terminus manager A.K. Tiwari and his team took charge after the carnage was over. “We had to restore normalcy as early as possible,” Tiwari said. “Cleaning out blood and bodies and restoring trains was the priority.”
The first train left CST at 2.34 a.m. on Thursday, just hours after the bloodbath. “There were so many bodies; we had to pick them up, put them in parcel handcarts and take them to St George Hospital,” said parcel agent R. Selvan. “It is a sight I will never forget.” At least 57 people died at the station and 87 were injured.
For their bravery, a Rs 10 lakh award was announced for Yadav and Rs 5 lakh each for Khiratkar and Bhosale. Railway announcer Vishnu Dattaram Zhende, who kept a cool head and directed people to safety, was awarded Rs 10 lakh.