Calcutta, Feb. 23: A group of 70 men, women and children returning from a wedding reception clashed with a dozen youths on night patrol armed with rods and sticks at Liluah in Howrah early today.
The women in the group said the drunken youths, members of the Anandanagar resistance group, stoned their vehicles. The mob was allegedly led by a local committee member of the CPM’s Liluah 2 unit, Ayodhya Samanta, and his brother Prasanta.
The CPM leaders have been arrested, said Howrah superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar. But so have been father of the bride Shankar Dutta and his relative Sanjib Majumdar, a member of the CPM’s Kasba unit. They have been accused of “rioting and assault”.
At Dutta’s modest house on Liluah’s Belgachhia Road, a shaken Bina Dutta, his aunt, said they had started for home in a convoy of 10 cars. “We had gone to Janani Lodge in Nischinta Baruatala to attend the reception of Shankar’s daughter Priyanka,’’ she said.
Shankar, a constable posted at the Serampore GRP station, had arranged a fleet of 10 private cars to transport the family from his Belgachhia Road residence to Nischinta Baruatala and back — a distance of about 6 km through serpentine village roads.
“The reception went past midnight. We were apprehensive as the route through which we had to return was dark and infested with criminals,’’ Bina said. So Shankar had decided to form a convoy.
“We started from the lodge at 1 am. Tired after a hectic evening, most of us were half-asleep. As we neared Anandanagar, our vehicles came to a sudden halt. I heard a commotion outside and suddenly we noticed yelling youths rushing towards us,’’ she said.
Her driver was hit on the neck with a wooden stick.
“He collapsed. We were petrified and screamed for help. The youths were banging on the doors and windows of the cars. They dragged out some of the men and began pulling at the women,’’ said Mou, also a member of the Dutta household.
Bina said Shankar showed his police identity card and pleaded with the attackers to stop.
The superintendent of police, who was camping at the scene of the incident till late evening, said: “We are investigating the allegations.”
Ayodhya denied the charges. “Our boys were on their regular night patrol when they saw a car approaching and waved at the driver to stop. But the vehicle sped away, almost running over one of us. We spotted other cars coming from the same direction and stopped them,’’ he said.
Ayodhya claimed that the youths on patrol merely wanted to know the number of the car, which had sped away.
“The youths in the wedding group were drunk and they threatened us. We protested, an altercation started and they overpowered us,’’ said Prasanta.
“The situation is tense but under control,” said Kumar. A police picket has been set up in the area.
The incident comes weeks after two buses returning from wedding parties were looted at Dhantola in Nadia. The women were allegedly molested and looted there and a CPM leader, now suspended, was the prime accused.
Pointing towards the ransacked CPM office in Anandanagar, Anath Rith, who was among the youths in the patrol party last night, echoed Ayodhya. “Drunken members from their side beat us up,” he said.