The fishing village of Uran, 35 kilometres from Navi Mumbai, appeared deserted on Friday, a day after two schoolchildren claimed to have seen armed men in masks there, sparking a security scare. Four policemen manned a makeshift outpost at the edge of Uran’s town centre but most residents remained indoors.
The spot where the two children claimed to have seen the men is about five kilometres from a naval base. But after searching for almost two days, the Maharashtra police, anti-terrorism squad, Force One and Indian Navy found no trace of any intruders. Though the navy called off its search in the evening, the local police continued to scour the area for clues.
A navy man, who lives just 30 metres from the spot where the alleged intruders were seen, said he was out on his scooter at 6.40am on Thursday to drop his daughter to a bus stand but saw nothing suspicious. “I did see any suspicious men or armed personnel. As far as I know, marine commandos sometimes come here in groups to carry out their exercises, but they are not armed. Also, they are in training attire, which can be easily distinguished,” said the navy man, who did not wish to be named.
He added that around the time the intruders were reported to have been seen, the street leading to Uran’s town centre is normally quite busy and it is thus unlikely that others wouldn’t have noticed masked men carrying guns.
About 50 metres from the spot, the home of one of the two children brimmed with policemen on Friday. A policeman who was born and brought up in the village told Hindustan Times, “I know everyone in this village, and it is highly unlikely that any suspicious activity in the village could have gone unnoticed. But we cannot take any chance. We have been asked to conduct search operations and will continue them until we are asked to stand down.”
Authorities at Uran Education Society, where the two children study, said the school will remain closed until Monday. Advocate Rajendra Bhanushali, school committee president, said, “School students have to be counselled because there is fear among students. Local agencies are helping us. The school will reopen on Monday. We have been given police protection and are also thinking about private security guards.”
Security at Uran had been tightened even before Thursday’s security scare. Armed personnel were deployed at major government establishment, including the collectors’ office, talati office and local courts after Sunday’s terrorist attack at Uri in Kashmir, in which 18 soldiers were killed.