“I’m going to axe you,” she shouted and began to dig deep in her handbag. A few abuses later, she surprised all the passengers travelling on the Yellow Line of the Delhi Metro by taking out an arm-length axe and raising it to attack fellow passengers.
At 16:59 hours on December 14, I received a call from my brother who wanted to know how far I was from home. “I should be reaching Qutab Minar in a minute or so. I’ll call you when I reach Sikanderpur,” I replied and ended the call. All was well then in the ladies compartment of the train headed towards Huda City Centre. But, not for long.
According to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd’s official website, the “Govt. of India/MHA has entrusted the security of DMRC network in Delhi and NCR to Central Industrial Security Force which is a paramilitary force under Ministry of Home Affairs.” The page on ‘Metro Security’ further states, “The Govt. of India believes in the policy of prevention rather than prudent pessimism and hence has directed CISF to carry out 100% checking/frisking of commuters and 100% inspection of the baggage/material to be taken inside the metro network.” If I understand this correctly, all these “multi-tier security checks” take place for the safety of the passengers and to ensure that no passenger on board has any weapons or objects that could harm fellow passengers. Now imagine the shock and the panic in the first compartment of a train running between stations when a woman threatens to attack two other passengers with an axe and kill them.
Soon after we crossed Qutab Minar, there was a loud quarrel between a couple of passengers – a woman was being aggressive using abusive language to others on board. While at the early stages of the quarrel, my earphones were plugged in and I missed out on the issue that was turning violent, I noticed the uncomfortable crowd and paused my music to check the situation. Constantly swearing and pushing people, this woman had gathered everyone’s attention. People understood something wasn’t right and tried to calm her down. Seeing her angry, a lot of people stood up and walked away, leaving empty seats for her. One polite lady asked her to sit down and tried to calm her. In return, the woman started swearing at her, “How dare you touch me?”
Children sensed this panic and began to cry, other ladies started walking away from this to prevent an escalation in the heated moment. Just seconds before we reached Sultanpur station, the woman pulled out the arm length axe with a sharp blade from her bag and tried to attack people on board. Everyone screamed and started running towards the other cars when the train stopped and the doors opened. In that split second, while most of the passengers in the first car of the train evacuated running for the safety of their lives, a couple of women managed to snatch that axe from the woman’s hands. The chaos got the train driver to come out and inspect the issue.
After everyone found out that the weapon had been snatched away, they gathered in numbers to shout at the inefficiency of the metro staff, some security people too showed up in a couple of minutes and a scene was building up. People shouted demanding answers for how the axe passed through all the security checks and cleared baggage screenings. I too asked, “Today the security missed an axe, tomorrow they would miss a gun or a bomb. Why do we bother with the long queues for security if such objects don’t get detected? Is this really the quality of our safety checks?”
Instead of getting answers, the driver along with a couple of security personnel asked us to re-board the train and continue the journey. But the crowd was angry and in shock too, it wasn’t easy to pacify everyone in an instant with a sorry. People wanted to fight the woman, but before they could hurt her, someone who claimed to be the woman’s attendant clarified and explained her condition. The attendant claimed that the woman was on medication for some mental health issues and her state of mind wasn’t stable.
Although the explanation was enough for the dozens of passengers to calm down and re-enter the train as the security escorted her along with her attendant to the station, the rest of the journey forward people on the train only spoke about the inefficiency of the metro security. And rightly so, I too believe this should be a major concern for DMRC and the associated ministries involved. First, how did an axe reach the train? Then, why did the woman’s attendant leave her side even for a second when they knew that the woman’s mental health wasn’t stable? How did the attendant not know that the woman was carrying an object that could potentially harm people?
A few weeks ago, my mother read out the news of a woman being stabbed to death on M.G.Road Metro station and today I come home to tell her this event. How secure is our public transport?
While I raise these questions of awareness in the safety of my home, I cannot help but wonder how safe all of us really are in the hands of security lapse. It could have been anyone’s loved ones, and that woman could have easily terminated someone’s journey for good. I ask if the government will only act upon someone’s funeral.