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Ticket drive sets off rail rampage

Calcutta, Nov. 16: Dum Dum station turned into a virtual battlefield this morning when irate passengers fought with railway police, who had allegedly assaulted a woman commuter during a special ticket-checking drive.

The mob, swelled by local residents and hawkers, battled the force for over three hours, throwing stones at railway staff and personnel of the Railway Protection Force (RPF). It ransacked booking counters and forcibly stopped the Sealdah-bound Darjeeling Mail, damaging the engine, an air-conditioned coach and another bogie.

A section of passengers squatted on the tracks, disrupting services on the Main and Bongaon sections of the Sealdah division for four hours from 8.30 am.

Vastly outnumbered by 2,000 violent passengers, the RPF was all at sea when the trouble broke out. The force resorted to lathicharge after reinforcements arrived. Thirty-two people, including four railway employees, were injured.

Sealdah superintendent of Government Railway Police (GRP) Gangeshwar Prasad Singh said there was no witness to or evidence of the alleged assault. “It is yet to be verified whether the allegation of assault is true. It might be a rumour. No one has so far lodged any complaint,” he said.

Hinting at a conspiracy, Dulal Chandra Mitra, divisional railway manager (Sealdah), said: “It has become a common incident at Dum Dum every time railway men go there to catch free-trippers. Today’s violence was led by a section of local people and hawkers. We will continue our drive against ticketless commuters at Dum Dum.”

Singh added that railway officials and RPF personnel reached Dum Dum station at 8.15 am as part of a special drive against free-trippers. On spotting Chetna, the special train that carries the crackdown team, some commuters — believed to be free-trippers — began fleeing. The ticket checkers and the RPF personnel chased them.

Soon word went around that a constable had assaulted a woman, and at least 2,000 commuters turned on the checking staff and the RPF, hurling stones. Sensing trouble, the special team boarded Chetna and left for Barasat station.

When Darjeeling Mail pulled in, the mob ran towards the engine and smashed the windscreen and the headlight. The terrified motorman locked himself inside the cabin, fearing assault.

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