Saltlec is where they work, by day — one a Calcutta boy, one down from Mumbai for a few weeks of training. Salt Lake is what they fear, by night — not despite the elaborate police cover, but because of it. Victims of ‘police action’, a Friday night, the one from the city is now “too scared” to pursue the matter. But the one from Mumbai is writing to the police chief and the Bengal government, complaining about “cop-criminals in the state’s IT hub”.
It was 10.40 pm. After dinner, the two young techhies left a restaurant in DD Block. Looking for a taxi to take them to Ultadanga, they saw a police mobile van approaching them. “What are you doing out here'” asked the man at the wheel of the vehicle, marked ‘CS1’.
Surrounded by four men in khaki, the two flashed the identity cards of their Sector-V office, said they had just finished dinner and even produced the restaurant bills. “The cops said they would drop us at Ultadanga and we boarded the van from near Seba hospital. Our nightmare had begun,” recall Amit and Praveen (names changed on request).
The van stopped at Bonobitan, near Sech Bhavan. “The man at the wheel was reeking of alcohol; he seized our ID-cards and snatched the food bills,” says Amit. He then radioed for a vehicle to take away “two suspects detained for loitering” near the residence of Jyoti Basu.
“We were shocked. We asked him what our fault was,” says Amit. “We are cops and we can do anything,” came the harsh reply. Within 10 minutes, a ‘light cream’ Mahindra jeep reached the spot and an officer arrived.
After consulting the man who had ‘picked them up’, he asked Amit and Praveen to board his vehicle. When they asked for an explanation, the officer said: “Wandering in Salt Lake at night is banned. That’s your crime. Every night, we pick up people like you.”
The two were told that they would be produced in court on Monday after two nights in jail. “You pay me Rs 2,000 and I will let you go,” the officer said.
When Amit and Praveen said they weren’t carrying so much cash, the officer drove them to the ICICI Bank ATM in Sector IV, which was out of order. Next stop; HDFC Bank ATM, near PNB.
“I withdrew Rs 1,400 and told him that was all I had in my account,” recounts Amit. The officer instructed the youth to hand over the money to a constable nearby. Only after that did he return their ID cards and let them go. But not before a parting shot: “Apnader moto lok achhey bolei amader choley jachhey. Aschhi, dada (We are surviving only for people like you).”
The two ‘police’ victims rushed back home. “All we wanted was to get out of Salt Lake. How can the police in a place touted as the state’s development centre behave like thugs'” demands Amit.
Sujoy Kumar Chandra, SDPO, Salt Lake, said: “I have not received such a complaint. But if they provide us with the details, we will take immediate action.”