Mumbai: More than 50 school children headed for a picnic to Madh Island thought their end was imminent when a 40-year-old man whipped out a rifle and threatened to massacre them in Bandra yesterday.
The man had an altercation with the driver of the children's school bus over his right of way, which made him pull out the rifle later found to be a fake.
Jaideep Singh Garewal, a businessman, was in his military green jeep when the bus, carrying students from St Anne's High School, allegedly blocked his way around 8 am at Pali Hill.
He shouted at the bus driver to move and got into a verbal duel with him when he refused.
The situation spun out of control when an irate Garewal whipped out a rifle from under his seat and pointed it at the driver and the students. "Bachche gaye tel lene," he shouted while threatening to pull the trigger.
Janet Joseph Putino, the principal of the school, made a frantic call to the Khar police. Putino told them that she feared the students aged between 6 and 9 years could be killed in a possible shootout.
Eyewitnesses told MiD DAY that initially they thought some member of the underworld or a terrorist was planning to take the students hostage.
Even as the situation remained tense, Garewal told the onlookers that he was from the media and nobody could harm him.
Garewal retreated only when he realised that the police had been informed and they would reach the spot sometime soon.
He rushed to his residence at Kiran Tower on Nargis Dutt Road and locked himself in his apartment.
The police reached Garewal's residence and arrested him around 5 pm. Garewal was overpowered and his 3.8 ft-long gun was seized. A close inspection of the weapon revealed that it was fake.
Garewal has been booked under Sections 506 (II) (keeping a fake weapon and threatening to kill) and 504 (insulting people with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code.
"We have seized Garewal's fake rifle and his jeep for threatening students of St Annes High School. He has been remanded to police custody till January 25," said Assistant Police
Inspector Navnath Sonawane of the Khar police.
The police are running a background check on Garewal and investigating whether he was involved in any other weapon-related case earlier.