Canning (South 24-Parganas), Jan. 11: A protest after a blaze at Canning market spun out of control this afternoon, bringing policemen and zilla parishad members to blows.
Sub-divisional police officer Subhankar Sinha Sarkar and parishad heavyweight Joydeb Purokait were injured in the clash, but went their ways after first-aid and a handshake.
Sarkar, who had gone to quell the mob minutes after the fire reduced six shops to ashes, ordered a lathicharge on the agitators, led by Purokait.
In the scuffle, he sustained injuries, infuriating the parishad members. They targeted the force, leading to a police-politician clash.
“The situation never went out of hand at Canning. In fact, it was a mere scuffle and peace was restored quickly,” said additional superintendent of police (south) Rajesh Kumar Singh.
Trouble erupted around 1 pm, when a fire broke out in the market. Local traders, who have been insisting on a permanent fire station here, alleged that the fire tenders arrived 45 minutes after the fire had broken out.
At least six shops were gutted and 10 others damaged in the fire that started from a shop in a corner of the market. “The fire had broken out from a short-circuit. Eyewitnesses noticed a huge flash outside the shop before fire engulfed rest of the shops,” said a fire fighter.
Around 3 pm, when the three fire tenders were preparing to leave after dousing the flames, local residents, along with zilla parishad members, blocked their path.
“We will not allow you to leave. These fire tenders will remain here until the authorities assure us that a permanent fire station will be set up here,” a few residents said.
The impasse continued till 3 pm, giving the local police station time to inform the SDPO. Sarkar soon reached the market and found the fire fighters gheraoed by the locals.
After reasoning in vain for 15 minutes, Sarkar asked his men to clear the area. As policemen began to push the protesters away from the spot, Purokait suffered bruises, incensing zilla parishad members further.
The protesters then turned on the police, roughing up even the SDPO. After half-an-hour, the situation was brought under control and both Sarkar and Purokait shook hands admitting that it was a case of mistaken identity. They were administered first-aid before bidding each other goodbye.