| A vehicle burns at Bhiringi More. Telegraph picture
Durgapur, Sept. 4: The war zone in the steel city could have looked different today had police not been on their heels, residents complained.
The spell of terror and arson unleashed by the rampaging mob at Bhiringi More following the triple deaths spiralled because of the absence of policemen. Within minutes of the accident, the police were informed but it took them half-an-hour to reach the spot, said residents.
Some of those who had been witness to the bloody mishap had managed to take down the number of the killer vehicle. When it was handed over to the police, they did little to trace it, they said.
The police’s delay in arriving at the scene and lethargy in chasing the truck that mowed down a father and his two children enraged the mob at the busy intersection.
Several police personnel from the city had been rushed to Suri in the wake of the hostage crisis there. Most others were deployed to provide security to Jyoti Basu, who was in town.
The force that arrived first was far out-numbered by the mob that had already gathered. By the time additional forces came from Asansol, the situation had swirled out of control.
Instead of sympathising with or trying to pacify the crowd, getting angry by the minute and growing in numbers, the police insisted that the bodies be handed over. In no time, the anger at the missing truck was directed towards the police and the force had to contend with people who thought it was not on their side.
A contingent of “impatient” law-enforcers tried to use force to contain a swelling mass of people. The police resorted to lathi-charge and the violence followed.
Witnesses said the attitude of the policemen, who brushed aside the demands for posting more traffic guards at the site of the accident on a permanent basis, worsened the situation.
At least seven accidents have taken place at the same crossing in the past few months. Residents alleged that the police did nothing despite several reminders.
Today, they tried to strengthen their demand citing the triple deaths as a case in point. “The police simply refused to listen.”
The Trinamul Congress and the Congress alleged that people in the area had a long-standing grudge against the police for their failure to tackle a section of local youths engaged in illegal trade of stolen coal, iron and steel goods. “The accident gave them an opportunity to take revenge against the police for its inability to check the illegal trade,” said Apurba Mukherjee, the Trinamul MLA from the area.
Local councillor and CPM leader T.N. Sukul alleged that Trinamul provoked the flare-up. He said the office of the transport agency where police officer Jagannath Mondal had run for safety was set on fire because its owner was a CPM supporter.