On any other day,Thangman Sangma would have been manning the entrance of the Patiala House Courts complex. Deployed at one of the seven gates of the complex, he would have been outside the security box, keeping a sharp eye on the many visitors entering the premises.
On Saturday, Sangma was no longer at his regular spot; he was behind the four layers of security force personnel who had taken over Patiala House, the last man standing.
Hours before Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi were set to appear before the court in connection with the National Herald case, the court complex had turned into a virtual fortress, with the deployment of officials from the Special Protection Group (SPG), the Rapid Action Force (RAF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Delhi Police.
While Delhi Police lined the outer perimeter of the court, the inner perimeter and the barricades outside the main building, where the hearing took place, was guarded by the RAF and the BSF. SPG personnel took control of the main building and were in charge of sanitising the court premises.
Sangma was on duty at gate no. 4 on Saturday or, as he put it, “away from the limelight”. Barricades had been put up there and Delhi Police personnel checked the identity cards of each and every person who entered the court premises.
Sangma is a police official from Meghalaya who has been posted on special duty in Delhi. He has been stationed at the Patiala House court complex for the last four months. “I have seen tight security here earlier but never on this scale,” he says, adding, “I am from the same village in Meghalaya as former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma”.
Security arrangements for the senior leaders had begun Friday evening, said Sangma. “The conducted searches again this morning,” he said.
For a hearing that lasted only a few minutes, the court premises was packed with security personnel.
However, as soon as the Congress top brass left, the barricades were removed and the security teams dispersed.
Sangma was left alone at his post, guarding gate no. 4. “VIPs have been to the court off and on, but these must be the top-most,” he observed.