Airport guards desert post to join fight with official

Authorities say incident could have resulted in security breach during peak travel time


Feb. 6--MUMBAI -- For about 10 minutes on Thursday morning, the security hold at domestic Terminal 1A was unmanned, thanks to a freak brawl between a terminal manager of the Mumbai airport and a few Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guards.

The scrap began at 9 am, when the security hold is bustling with peak-hour travellers.

"Anyone could have easily slipped past the security hold without being frisked," said an airport official who witnessed the incident.

Every day, about 20 prohibited items like lighters, matchboxes and Swiss army knives are confiscated at the security holds of the city airport. Terminal 1 A caters to Kingfisher and Air India fliers.

According to eyewitnesses, the scrap began when a CISF guard asked to see Alston D'Mello's ID card as he was passing. An argument broke out and, in a flash, all the guards in the area had jumped into the fray, leaving their posts unsupervised.

Subsequently, a blame game has begun between Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) and the paramilitary force guarding the airport.

"D'Mello was jumping the taped barricades. The guard rightly stopped him and asked to see his identity card," said CISF Senior Commandant Sanjay Prakash. "He started shouting abuses, which further led to the ugly incident. We wanted to file a police complaint against him, but the matter was later sorted out."

The MIAL spokesperson denied the claim. "They asked to see his identity card, which he provided. We are talking to the CISF head about the matter," he said. Police officials interrogated both parties but did not register an offence.

Though several passengers were stuck at security clearance, the ruckus did not cause any flight delays.