It was a little past noon on Wednesday when a packed Metropolitan Transport Corporation bus came to a screeching halt on Kamarajar Salai, not very far from the office of the Director General of Police.
Even before passengers could guess the reason for the sudden halt, huge stones landed on them, piercing through the glass windows of the bus.
Seconds later, a group stormed into the bus and started assaulting students of its own college with knives.
For the passengers, it seemed as if a scene from a movie was playing out in front of them. It was only much later that the passengers realised that they had witnessed one of the worst instances of student violence on buses in the city.
On Wednesday alone, three cases were reported, including this one.
This correspondent was travelling in the bus, seated behind Muthukrishnan, the 33-year-old driver – route No. 6D (Foreshore Estate – Tollgate).
A group of about 20 college students boarded the bus at Queen Mary’s College stop. At 12.25 p.m., when the bus was approaching Kannagi statue bus stop, another group of students from the same college waved at the driver, indicating to stop.
As Muthukrishnan did not slow down, they started throwing stones, damaging the windshield and glass windows on the left side, injuring many women commuters.
Hit by a stone, Muthukrishnan jammed the brakes and brought the bus to a sudden halt in the middle of the road.
The group then broke open the automatic doors and pulled out knives concealed in their shirts and started beating up their college mates inside the bus. Women commuters begged for mercy, asking students to stop the attack.
The targeted students tried desperately to save themselves by crouching in the narrow space between seats and using bags grabbed from commuters as shields. The episode lasted a few minutes and the armed students sprinted towards Triplicane railway station and vanished.
A class V boy student, an elderly woman and many others sustained bruises and bleeding injuries. Shaken by the incident, they rushed to find autorickshaws to take them away from the spot.
Pachaiammal and Sathya, two visually challenged students of QMC heading to TN Association for the Blind in Tondiarpet, were stranded, but passers-by helped them reach the Kannagi Statue bus stop.
Muthukrishnan, who was injured on his hip, was taken to Government Royapettah Hospital.
A trivial dispute among the students, regular travellers on different bus routes, was allegedly the motive behind the assault, said a policeman at the spot.