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Mob thwarts police drive

A pitched battle was fought between residents and policemen in the Karaya area on Friday afternoon during a drive against illegal cycle-rickshaws. Five policemen, including the officer leading the force, were injured. They have been admitted to the Calcutta Police Hospital.

Two cycle-rickshaws impounded in the drive were snatched away by the mob, which also damaged a police vehicle.

Kuldip Singh, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), said the battle was fought at the intersection of Broad Street and Rifle Range Road. “The hackney carriage branch of the city police initiated the drive against cycle-rickshaws being plied on city roads,” Singh added.

Anger erupted soon after the police team reached the spot and started booking the rickshaw-pullers. Hundreds from the adjoining pockets joined the mob. “Immediately after reaching the spot, we impounded two illegal cycle-rickshaws. But within the next few minutes, at least 500 people assembled at the intersection and attacked us,” said Singh.

The protesters initially jostled with the police. Suddenly, they turned violent and started pelting stones and other brickbats. “We tried to resist them but we were outnumbered,” said a member of the team. Reinforcements were sought from Karaya police station, which angered the crowd even more.

Sergeant Shanti Banerjee, leading the force, received head injuries. Two constables and two home guards were also injured. The windscreen of the police vehicle was smashed. The mob, realising it had the upper hand, snatched the two impounded cycle-rickshaws.

Half-an-hour later, reinforcements arrived on the spot, but by then, the mob had dispersed. “There was nothing we could do. A combing of the adjacent areas would have sparked tension and panic,” said deputy commissioner Singh.

A probe into the incident has been initiated. “We are busy collecting information about those who played an active role in the attack on the policemen. We have some leads that can’t be disclosed for the sake of investigation. Raids will be carried out later in the night,” Singh said.

Elaborating on the drive, he added: “The law does not allow cycle-rickshaws to ply in the jurisdiction of the city police. However, a number of such vehicles are seen and their number is growing. This time, we are going to stern action.”

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