According to reports, the first-time Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad was travelling on AI 852 from Pune to Delhi to attend Parliament, when the incident happened. While Gaikwad had a business class ticket, the airline, due to last-minute changes, had to operate an all-economy aircraft on the route. Air India officials say they immediately informed business class passengers to either take a refund or switch to economy class.
Gaikwad reportedly agreed and travelled on the flight, but refused to disembark at Delhi. “He remained seated and insisted on meeting senior officials,” said sources, adding it resulted in a major delay as the aircraft was scheduled to proceed to Goa.
In her 11-year-long career with Air India, senior cabin crew Pratibha Dhar said she has never witnessed a day as horrific as Thursday.In the 83 second video clip that went viral, Dhar could be seen pleading with Gaikwad to stop the ruckus as he was a “role model” and a “democratic leader”.
“I told him 115 passengers were waiting to board the aircraft but he wanted the top management inside the aircraft. On saying that’s not possible he became very abusive and used foul language.He started beating me and took out his slippers and started hitting me,“ Raman said in his written complaint to the airline.
“He also tried to throw me out of the aircraft from the step ladder but the staff prevented him from doing so.Broke my specs and tore button of cardigan, and humiliated me in front of staff. God save our country if this is the culture and behaviour of our MPs,“ Raman’s complaint added.
“Crew members and staff intervened and saved me from being thrown out,” says Raman. “I was insulted and humiliated in front of the whole crew,” added the 60-year old.
The Air India employee, who was beaten up by Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad 25 times with his slippers, on Friday said his attacker must be punished so that no one took it as their “birthright” to assault a person.
R. Sukumar (62), who is with the State-owned airline’s ground handling subsidiary, also said Mr. Gaikwad’s assault on him was akin to a violent road rage incident.
The employee also highlighted that the police must act so that there was a deterrence. “The police should take strict action against such people. They should not take it as their birthright to assault a person,” he said.
Raman’s page-long complaint letter ends with these words: “God save our country if this is the culture and behaviour of our MPs.” Raman’s closing lines call for a greater introspection of the ‘larger-than-law’ image of our lawmakers.
Though Air India has filed two FIRs against the parliamentarian,one for the assault and other for delaying the flight and causing economic losses,it remains to be seen if any concrete action would be taken.
Gaikwad has various criminal charges pending against him, including voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servants from duty, criminal intimidation and rioting among others.