Fight over colours draws ATS, bomb squad to Mumbai school

A team of 50 police personnel descended on a school in Byculla when they got a phone call about terrorists holding students and teachers hostage; when they reached the spot, the ‘terror situation’ was revealed two teachers had been fighting over some missing colouring material and had locked the room from inside

After the control room received a call last evening that terrorists were holding students and teachers hostage, a team of 50 officials from the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Bomb Squad, Dog Squad and Agripada Police descended on the Byculla municipal school in a convoy of around eight cars and vans.

Things seemed normal when they reached the school, said officials, but with the call coming yesterday just a day after the terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab, and two days before Yakub Memon’s likely hanging no one was taking any chances. The school was surrounded and the area was cordoned off.

A member of the non-teaching staff was passing by a second-floor classroom of the Meghraj Urdu Municipal School in Byculla when she heard shouting from within. Illustrations/Uday Mohite
A member of the non-teaching staff was passing by a second-floor classroom of the Meghraj Urdu Municipal School in Byculla when she heard shouting from within. Illustrations/Uday Mohite

It was only about half an hour later, after the posse of personnel had searched several classrooms, that they realised that a combination of the charged atmosphere in the city and a senior citizen’s colourful imagination had turned a petty squabble between two teachers over some colouring material into a hostage situation involving terrorists.

She called up the police control room and informed them that terrorists had entered  a classroom in the school and were holding students and teachers hostage
She called up the police control room and informed them that terrorists had entered  a classroom in the school and were holding students and teachers hostage

'Feared the worst'
Around 5 pm yesterday, the Mumbai Police’s control room received this call that sent several departments scrambling into action. The unidentified caller said: “There is a hostage situation. Terrorists have entered a classroom of the Meghraj Urdu Municipal School and held teachers and students hostage.”

A team of 50 personnel descended on the school, surrounded it and cordoned off the area, following which, a systematic search of the classrooms was carried out
A team of 50 personnel descended on the school, surrounded it and cordoned off the area, following which, a systematic search of the classrooms was carried out

According to police officials, Mumbai is on high alert after the Punjab terrorist attack and in view of Yakub Menon’s likely hanging. Thus, as soon as the call was received, all the top cops were informed and all departments were put on alert.

It was only about half an hour after the operation began that the officials realised that an argument over some missing colouring material had been mistaken for a hostage crisis
It was only about half an hour after the operation began that the officials realised that an argument over some missing colouring material had been mistaken for a hostage crisis

Police Inspector Raghunath Mahale from Agripada police station, under whose jurisdiction the school falls, said, “We could not take such a call lightly. Several important departments were informed in no time and everyone was alerted.”

Within minutes, the Anti-Terrorist Squad, Bomb Disposal Squad, Dog Squad and a team from the Agripada police station reached the school. “In no time we reached the school, and we feared the worst,” said an official from the police station.

Swift action
All the units reached the spot, surrounded the school and cordoned off the area. “We were a little surprised that everything seemed normal at the school. However, we began our work and started searching the building. We called senior officials from the school and asked them, but they said no such thing was happening at the school,” said the official.

“We began searching the ground floor and the first floor and a non-teaching staff member from the school, who was a senior citizen, approached us and said she had made the call. She said she had heard loud shouting in a classroom on the second floor and she took us there,” he added.

Anti-climax
When the team reached the classroom in question, however, they found that it was empty. When a teacher who was standing nearby was asked what had happened there, she said that there had been a fight between two teachers over a petty issue.

One of the teachers, Anjum Sheikh, who teaches advanced bag-making, said, “I was almost done for the day and was about to leave when a teacher called Shaina, who holds a grudge against me, came to me and complained that some colouring material that had been given to me before the class was missing.

Arguments erupted between us following which the Chief Executive Officer of the school was informed. The doors of a second-floor classroom were closed and the matter was resolved.” A police officer from the Agripada police station said, “When the shouting was going on inside the room, the non-teaching staffer was passing by.

We don’t know what was going on inside her head, but she thought that it was a hostage situation and immediately called the control room.” After the cops came to know the real story, some heaved a sigh of relief while some others laughed.

They spoke to the CEO, teachers and the staffer and a station diary entry was made about the incident. When mid-day spoke to the other teacher, Shaina, she said, “My job is in danger. I cannot comment on this issue,” and hung up.

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