4 shot dead by RPF man in hate crime on moving train
Constable Chetan Singh first shot his senior officer Tikaram Meena,59, from point blank range just as Meena exited the train toilet located at one end of coach B-5
An armed 33-year-old Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable on board the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express shot dead four people, including his senior officer, as the train moved through suburban Mumbai on Monday morning, in what appeared to be a hate crime. All three passengers killed were Muslims.
Constable Chetan Singh first shot his senior officer Tikaram Meena,59, from point blank range just as Meena exited the train toilet located at one end of coach B-5. Some news reports mention an argument between the two, but HT could not independently confirm that.
That was at 5.15am, minutes after the express train crossed Vaitarna station. Singh, who was armed with an automatic assault rifle and 20 rounds of ammunition, then killed a passenger who has been identified as Abdul Kaderbhai Bhanpurwala, 60, who was seated on his berth in the same compartment.
After killing these two men in coach B-5, Singh crossed four other coaches from B-4 to B-1, leaving passengers in these compartments untouched before entering the pantry car where he shot dead a passenger who was identified as Sadar Mohammed Hussain, according to news agency PTI.
From the pantry car, Singh then crossed two other coaches, S-8 and S-7, again leaving the passengers in them unscathed, before stopping at S-6, which is a reserved sleeper class compartment. There, he trained his gun on another passenger Asghar Abbas Ali, 35, and shot him dead.
All three passengers were bearded. As Asghar Ali’s body toppled onto the narrow corridor, Singh rested the hilt of his assault weapon on the side seat and began a short hate-filled rant against Muslims that he asked the bystanders to record for the media’s consumption.
A news report cited one of Singh’s superiors saying that he was mentally ill, but HT could not independently verify this claim or the basis for it. One of Singh’s uncles in his home town Meetai in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, said that his nephew was mentally disturbed as he was harassed by his seniors. However, he could not give details of how Singh was harassed. Lokesh Singh Chaudhary, Singh’s younger brother who lives in Mathura, also told HT that the constable was undergoing some treatment for mental illness for the past year.
As the train crossed Bhyandar station, one of the passengers pulled the chain, leading to the train stopping about 100m from the next station, Mira Road. Here, Singh jumped on the tracks even as the stunned and stricken passengers looked on. After a short chase, Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel arrested him.
Investigators say they are yet to ascertain why Singh killed his senior officer with whom he boarded at Surat at 2.53am.
Each long-distance train is accompanied by an armed four-member RPF team. An escort team comprising assistant sub-inspector Tikaram Meena, constables Chetan Singh, Amay and head constable Narendra Parmar was on board the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast on Monday. While Meena and Singh were at one end of the train near the engine, the other two RPF men were seated near the rear end of the train.
After Singh was captured, the train was brought to Borivali station, where the bodies of the deceased were unloaded and taken to Shatabdi Hospital for post-mortem examination. Constable Singh was taken to the Borivali GRP station where a case of murder was registered against him. Ravindra Shisve, commissioner of GRP, told reporters that passengers of the coaches where Singh killed people were also asked to disembark at Borivali and record their statements.
Investigators are also verifying the authenticity of the multiple videos recorded by the passengers in which Singh, standing over his last victim, is delivering his rant.
“We are recording the statements of the other passengers, and the two other RPF personnel on-board the train,” said Shisve and added that Singh fired 12 rounds in all. “Some of the bullets hit the berths and windows of the compartments,” he said. Police officers also said that Singh, who appeared composed throughout, shouted slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ in the police lockup.
A little over an hour before the incident, Singh had almost got off the train.
As the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express approached Valsad in the early hours of Monday, Singh complained of uneasiness. Since the train does not stop at Valsad, it was decided that he would alight and be replaced at Vapi, which was the next stop another half hour away.
This is when assistant sub-inspector Meena informed the control room about the need to relieve Singh from escort duty and send a replacement when the train halts at Vapi for barely two minutes. A senior Western Railways official told HT that one of the team members from Meena’s team even took the automatic rifle from Singh to hand over to his replacement. “However, what we understand is that Singh then told the team that he was feeling fine and will continue. This is why the replacement never happened,” this Western Railways officer added.
Singh, who originally belongs to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, grew up in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh. He got a job with RPF in December 2009 on compassionate grounds after the death of his father Bachhu Singh, who served as an assistant sub-inspector in the force.
Until March this year, Singh was posted in Bhavnagar, Gujarat before seeking a transfer to the railways workshop at Lower Parel in Mumbai. According to an RPF officer, who asked not to be named, Singh was “part of the escort team for several months now”, and this was not the first time that Singh was part of the team led by Meena. The officer added that Singh was known to be short-tempered and spoke his mind without concern for others. Another officer who worked with Singh said that there were instances in the past when he had not turned up in uniform, and had to be reprimanded by his seniors.
Singh is married, and his wife and family, including his mother, live in Meetai, Hathras. In Mumbai, he shared quarters with other RPF staff at the railway barracks at Mahalxmi. He was on a 12-day personal leave in Hathras recently, and resumed work on July 18.
In Mathura, his brother said the crime could not be justified or forgiven. “He was my brother but no one can justify the killings he made of innocent men on train,” Lokesh Singh Chaudhary said. “Unfortunately, his children will suffer the outcome of the ghastly killing. Their future will be in the dark due to the misdeed of their father.”