The chilling terror attack on France’s Nice this week, which killed 84 innocent lives, has eerie similarities with an incident in India’s western city of Pune four years ago when a State Transport bus driver had hijacked an empty bus. The person went on a rampage on the streets of Pune for over 45 minutes, brutally killing nine persons and injuring 37, as he drove recklessly for 25 kilometres through one-ways and narrow roads. Many of his victims were school children, housewives as it was early morning school time and the parents were on their way to drop the kids to school. Several efforts and warnings by the police to stop the rogue driver failed. The bus came to halt only after a group of feisty citizens overpowered him when he slowed down. Today, India has mechanisms like the Quick Response Teams to deal with terror threats like these.
Santosh Mane, a former driver with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, has been awarded the death sentence. In his 40s now, he is currently lodged in Yerawada jail of Pune, waiting for the Supreme Court to hear his appeal against the sentence.
The rampage on the streets of Pune on 25 January 2012 has scarred many a life. Some parents lost their young children in front of their eyes. From a college-going girl to an old man, the victims belonged to different age groups. Several vehicles bore the brunt of it as they were severely damaged in the reckless act.
On 25 January 2012, Santosh Mane hijacked an empty State Transport bus from Pune’s Swargate depot at 8.15 am. He was allegedly miffed with his superior for denying him a ferry and shift of his preference. He had already returned from a long trip, he claimed. But when his superior refused to relent, he came out and drove away an empty State Transport bus.
“What was scarier was that he did rounds of the same place before moving ahead. So, some eyewitnesses who had seen the bus mowing down people, had themselves got injured when he returned and hit them,” an eyewitness had said then. That is what had happened to Praful Nair, a student who was barely 19 years old then. He was going for his classes when he saw that the bus crushed a college girl into two pieces. He slowed down immediately. But within a few minutes, the bus returned and hit him from behind. Praful had fractured both his legs from below the knees.
For 45 minutes, Santosh Mane sped on the streets of Pune. Police vans and motorcycles followed him and tried to stop him. He was given warnings from loudspeakers to stop the bus. It was only after the bus hit an electric pole and a divider that it came to a halt. A young man, Sharif Ibrahim Kutty, jumped on the bus and overpowered him. Others followed. Santosh Mane was finally nabbed and handed over to the police.