JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar on Sunday alleged that a man had tried to “strangulate” him on a flight he was to take from Mumbai to Pune. The Mumbai Police, however, said Kumar had only been involved in a scuffle with a fellow passenger when the aircraft was on the tarmac at Mumbai airport.
The passenger, Manas Deka, denied Kumar’s allegation and called it an attempt by the student leader to gather “cheap publicity”. Identical non-cognizable complaints were registered against both Kumar and Deka for causing hurt and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace under the IPC, police said.
Both men were offloaded from the flight. Kumar, who is on a visit to Maharashtra, went to Pune by road with his companions, who too were offloaded. Deka was questioned for a few hours before being put on the next flight to Pune. Kanhaiya subsequently described Deka as a “strong BJP supporter” in a tweet, and complained that Jet Airways staff had “completely refuse(d) to take any action against the man who assaulted (him)”, and that the airline saw “no difference between someone who assaults (and the) person who is assaulted”.
Deka denied being a “BJP supporter”. “I have never even cast my vote in my entire life,” he said. In a statement, Jet Airways said “some guests” had been offloaded “in the interest of operational safety”. “It was a Kolkata-Mumbai-Pune flight and Manas Deka had boarded from Kolkata and Kanhaiya boarded from Mumbai. Since there was a half-an-hour halt (in Mumbai), Deka wanted to stretch his legs and hence he got up but he stumbled near the aisle and his hand hit Kanhaiya’s shoulder. An argument broke out over this,” Deven Bharti, joint commissioner of police (law and order), said. Deka had the window seat, while Kumar had been allotted the aisle seat, the police said. Deka claimed he had got up to stretch his legs after the long flight from Kolkata, and had tripped and touched Kumar. “There was little space to walk across Kumar and I accidentally tripped. There was no intention to hurt, I immediately apologized,” he said, adding that it was Kumar’s associates who first complained that he had tried to strangle the JNUSU president. “There were about 3-4 other passengers who I believe were Kumar’s associates who started alleging that I pressed his throat, and after that even Kumar joined the outcry. I was trying to balance myself on an aching leg. I do not know him personally, even though I have seen his pictures. This is being done for cheap publicity,” Deka said. Deka works with a consultancy firm in Kolkata, and was going to Pune on an assignment. Based on allegations made by Kumar, who at 10.26 am tweeted, “Yet again, this time inside the aircraft, a man tries to strangulate me”, police made several inquiries. A non-cognizable complaint was registered against Deka, which was, by afternoon, also registered against Kumar. “When asked to file a complaint, Kanhaiya didn’t file it, his associate who sat between him and Deka did. We had asked Kumar to undergo a medical examination since he alleged being strangled but he refused to undergo any tests,” a senior police officer said. In its statement, Jet Airways said, “Some guests on board this morning’s flight Jet Airways fight 9W 618 Mumbai to Pune have been offloaded at Mumbai airport in the interest of operational safety. At Jet Airways, the safety and security of our guests and crew is always of prime importance.”