Over 3,000 people turn up to extend a grand welcome to DMK leader

For the second time this month, the Madurai airport virtually turned into a carnival ground as more than 3,000 people swarmed the venue with a band of musicians to receive Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam treasurer M.K. Stalin on Friday evening. Caught in the multitude, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldier, part of the escort team, lost a magazine loaded with 30 bullets from his AK47 rifle.

Mr. Stalin arrived here from Chennai at 6.10 p.m. for attending party functions scheduled until Sunday. He was given a reception at the arrival gate of the new terminal building with different troupes dancing to the beats of Chenda Melam and local folk drums. Party’s youth wing cadres joined the revelry by dancing and whistling.

The crowd went berserk when Mr. Stalin emerged from the arrival gate. As cadres jostled with one another, it took about 10 minutes for him to walk a distance of around 40 feet to his vehicle, a van with an opening on the roof. He kept on requesting the cadres not to push each other.

His security guards comprising five CRPF soldiers and local policemen had a tough time controlling the crowd. When Mr. Stalin was about to board the van, John Kennedy, one of the five soldiers, reported that a fully loaded magazine from his AK47 rifle was missing. Taken aback, his other colleagues joined him in a frantic search.

However, they could not do much as Mr. Stalin stayed in the vehicle for long, receiving shawls and garlands flung at him by enthusiastic cadres. His convoy moved at a snail’s pace through the airport as the party’s women’s wing had arranged for women to stand in a row all along the pathway to shower him with flower petals.

It took nearly an hour for the crowd to disperse and it was only after that the five CRPF personnel, who stayed back in the airport after requesting the local police to take care of Mr. Stalin’s security, were able to conduct a thorough search. But it was too late by then as the magazine remained untraceable with the local policemen suspecting that it could have been taken away by someone in the crowd.

The CRPF men sought the help of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel, deployed for airport security, in tracing the magazine but to no avail. Talking on condition of anonymity, one of the soldiers said that the magazine would get removed easily on pressing a cinch near the trigger. “Losing a magazine is a serious offence. Not only the loser but also all five of us will be held accountable,” he said.

Sympathising with the CRPF men, a CISF soldier said: “Controlling such a huge crowd with minimal number of security personnel is impossible. But this soldier cannot cite this as a reason. He will have to face a departmental inquiry for losing the magazine,” he said.

A similar chaos prevailed at the Madurai airport on June 5 when Mr. Stalin had arrived for attending a function organised by the party’s Madurai (rural) unit.

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