Despite two barricades and an additional ring of policemen outside the Mumbai sessions court building in South Mumbai, the Mumbai police were clearly unprepared for the Salman mania that took over the streets outside the building on Wednesday, with enthusiastic fans gathering in growing numbers to catch a glimpse of the star as he awaited the court’s verdict.
At 11.15 am, even as Khan, after a 12.5-year-long trial, was found guilty on charges of culpable homicide and drunk driving, the action outside the courtroom proved no less dramatic than staple Bollywood fare.
A little less than 100 policemen and women were deployed at Fort’s session court building, and each one of those 100 faced crowd management challenges.
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“Journalists had camped outside gate five since morning, but were quickly outnumbered by fans. By evening, this compounded our problem severely,” said a senior police officer in charge of the day’s security arrangements outside the court.
Two barricades and a human chain of men in uniform were in place to stop people from getting too close. Gate five, usually the entrance to for complainants and advocates, remained closed.
Matunga resident Himesh Shah, along with his younger brother, were among at least 200 onlookers jostling with the camera crews. “Just need a glimpse of Salman, it’s so hard to see your favourite actor though he lives in the same city,” said Shah.
Shan Ghosh, who hails from Nagpur, popularly known as ‘Salman Junior’ for his resemblance to the actor, was soon doing multiple interviews once he’d been spotted by one journalist. “Last year for a function, somebody offered me a chance to play his lookalike. Now it has become my profession. Iearn up to Rs 20,000 for only an hour’s appearance,” Ghosh said.
As soon as the verdict was announced, even as the mob grew restive, Sohail Khan, Salman’ brother, was seen exiting the court premises from Gate 6. He was chased by lensmen and fans wielding phone cameras. But Sohail walked right through the crowd, evidently in tears, getting into a vehicle without making a statement.
The next round of confusion started around 1.10 pm when Judge D W Deshpande delivered the quantum of punishment — five years. By now, while the crowds outside continued to grow, confusion prevailed on the fourth floor just outside Deshpande’s courtroom Number 52. People on the court premises had started lining up just like those outside.
Outside, as the numbers swelled to approximately 500, the police turned the street into a one-way, the traffic pile-ups adding to the chaos.
Manoj Sosa, an employee with the BMC, was accompanied with a friend and the duo were seen chanting prayers through the day — the verdict, then the quantum of punishment and then at the time of the actor seeking bail. “It was an accident, we believe he is innocent, our prayers are just additional,” Sosa said.