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Hero policeman in India overpowers gun-wielding man to save students being held hostage

A gun-wielding man was arrested in West Bengal, India, for taking students hostage (Screengrab/ Times of India)
A gun-wielding man was arrested in West Bengal, India, for taking students hostage (Screengrab/ Times of India)

A policeman has been praised for pouncing on a gun-wielding man to save over 70 students who were held hostage in a classroom in India's eastern state of West Bengal.

For two hours on Wednesday, students and teachers of a school in Malda district held their breath after a 44-year-old man walked into the seventh standard classroom with two firearms, a dagger and two bottles of suspected petrol bombs.

The man, identified as Dev Ballav, threatened to kill the students if his demands were not met. He claimed that the Trinamool Congress government in the state and the police had kidnapped his estranged wife and son.

"I will not hesitate to kill the students if I don't get my son and wife back,” he said.

"My wife and my son were kidnapped. I lodged several complaints with the police and administration. But no action was taken.

"Even the media neglected my pleas to bring the issue to the public. If I do not get my wife and son back, I will empty the laps of many mothers,” Mr Ballav said as he placed two bottles filled with petrol on the teacher's table.

Shortly after, concerned parents and members of the press arrived at the spot. A large contingent of police were deployed as well.

Azharuddin Khan, the deputy superintendent of police, entered the school in civilian clothes and posed as a journalist. He started engaging with the man and then lunged at him.

Mr Khan then wrestled the man to the ground to disarm him quickly. Other policemen rushed inside the classroom and caught hold of Mr Ballav.

The students were reportedly asked to walk out of the class and then Mr Ballav was brought outside.

"He was trying to use his pistol when I jumped on him and overpowered him. I caught him by his wrist and moved his hand holding the pistol upwards so that even if he fired, the bullet would have hit the roof or wall," Mr Khan was quoted by The Telegraph as saying.

District police chief Pradeep Kumar Yadav said Mr Ballav previously went live on social media, displaying firearms and other weapons. He was arrested and later released on bail.

“We have to interrogate him,” said Mr Yadav.

Mr Yadav said it was the first time in his 20 years of service that he witnessed such an incident.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was holding an administrative meeting in Kolkata, complimented the police officer for averting the crisis.