Youth‘s ‘terrorist’ selfie sparks panic on flight

KOLKATA: The aircraft doors had closed and Jet Airways 9W472 to Mumbai was ready for take-off from Kolkata at 8.15 am when the passenger on seat 29B started fiddling with his phone. He masked his face with a handkerchief, took a and posted it on Snapchat with the caption: “Terrorist on flight, I destroy women’s heart”. The weird act caught the attention of the passenger sitting behind him on seat 30C, who hit the panic button on spotting the words “terrorists on flight” and informed the cabin crew, who in turn informed the pilot, who raised a security alert.

In the next few minutes, the 160 passengers on board watched aghast as the aircraft door reopened, scores of armed CISF personnel rushed in and asked the young man on seat 29B to drop his cellphone. They checked the dazed youth’s phone, searched his cabin baggage and dragged him out of the aircraft as the other flyers looked on stunned.

The youth, city college student Yogvedant Poddar(21), was detained and grilled at the NSCBI Airport police station till evening by multiple agencies including aviation security, police and military intelligence and then let off with a warning to never utter words like ‘terrorist’, ‘bomb’ and ‘hijack’ or act weirdly while on a flight.

The on-board drama effectively ruined Poddar’s holiday plans — he was off to Goa after his CAT exam — and delayed the Kolkata-Mumbai flight by an hour and 22 minutes, which had a domino effect on several subsequent scheduled departures. More importantly, it shook up the airport security establishment, which was scheduled to hold an anti-hijack drill a couple of hours later in view of the 26/11 anniversary.

Youth did not mean any harm: Cops

Officers of the Bidhannagar Commissionerate, who questioned Yogvedant Poddar for hours, said preliminary probe had revealed that the Snapchat post sent by the youth to a group of friends was meant as a joke and he did not mean any harm.

Yogvedant Poddar’s Beliaghata house.

According to Poddar’s father, who was summoned to the police station, his son had appeared for the CAT examination on Sunday and was on his way to Mumbai from where he would have headed to Goa with a group of friends for a coveted vacation.

“I believe he had posted the snapshot on social media just as a prank, but that is proving to be extremely costly at this moment,” said Beliaghata resident Nirmal Poddar, who is into industrial gloves manufacturing business.

Avviru Rabindranath, the deputy commissioner of Bidhannagar City Police, said, “We have thoroughly checked his antecedents and profile and have found nothing suspicious or dangerous. He possibly posted the snap on social media and shared with few friends just for fun. We allowed him to go after a detailed investigation.”

Poddar looked visibly shaken when he walked out of the police station around 6pm. “We will let him calm down for the next few hours but this is a lesson for him. He has to be more sensible while posting something on social media. As of now the vacation is on hold,” said a relative.
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