An Indian Railways security guard has been arrested after he allegedly shot dead a colleague and three passengers on board a train.
The suspect was identified by police as a constable of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) – Chetan Singh, 33 – who hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, after the shooting on board the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express train early on Monday.
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In one of the videos widely shared on the social media platform X, earlier known as Twitter, Singh is seen standing next to a blood-soaked body with his rifle in one hand.
“If you want to live and vote in Hindustan [India], I am telling you, it’s only Modi and Yogi,” he was heard saying in one of the videos verified by Al Jazeera.
Videos posted by Indian news agencies ANI and PTI showed blood-stained berths and shattered windows in parts of the train.
Singh is accused of shooting RPF assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Tika Ram Meena, 57, and three passengers, two of whom were Muslim. They were identified as Abdul Kadar, 64, and Asgar Abbas Ali, 48, a bangle seller, according to the Indian Express newspaper. The third victim was yet to be identified.
The incident took place near the town of Palghar in the western state of Maharashtra, about two hours away from Mumbai by train, at about 5am (23:30 GMT on Sunday).
Singh allegedly fired 12 rounds from his service rifle to kill his colleague and a passenger. He then allegedly killed two other passengers in two other coaches of the train, according to Indian media reports.
“We received information at 6am that an RPF constable who was on escort duty opened fired, and four people were shot, one of whom was an ASI,” Divisional Railway Manager Niraj Verma told reporters in Mumbai.
Singh had been involved in an argument with Meena, after which he opened fire on his senior colleague using his service rifle, the Indian Express reported.
A railway official later denied the report and said Singh “wasn’t feeling well and hence lost his calm”.
“He had a short fuse. He was quite hot-headed. There was no altercation. He just lost his temper and shot his senior, then fired at whoever he saw,” RPF (Western Railway) Inspector General Praveen Sinha was quoted as saying by the ANI.
After the shooting, Singh, who hails from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh state, got off the train at Borivali station in Mumbai, where he was apprehended by local police.
Government Railway Police Commissioner Ravindra Shisve said the motive behind the shooting was still not clear as an investigation got under way.
‘Genie of hate is out’
The fatal shooting has been condemned on social media, with a senior leader from the opposition Indian National Congress party, Jairam Ramesh, calling it “cold-blooded murders”.
“The genie of hate is now out of the bottle and it will take a lot of collective effort to put it back in,” Ramesh said in a tweet.
He laid the blame for “hate and violence” on Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and said its top leaders were “complicit in damaging the social fabric of India”.
The cold-blooded murders carried out by a RPF constable is the result of an hyper-charged and highly polarised news media and social media atmosphere. The genie of hate is now out of the bottle and it will take a lot of collective effort to put it back in.
The message of the…
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) July 31, 2023
Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of parliament and leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) party which advocates for the rights of Muslims and other marginalised groups, called it a “terror attack that specifically targeted Muslims”.
A BJP legislator from Maharashtra called for a thorough investigation. Manisha Chaudhary said an inquiry “must be carried out to ascertain the exact reason behind the incident”, the Indian Express reported.