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Seven-in-one tax swoop sparks battle

Several pockets of Metiabruz and Rabindranagar turned into a battlefield on Monday morning as taxmen descended on the area to conduct raids on both commercial establishments and private residences. Recalcitrant traders, not used to the idea of paying income-tax, retaliated by hurling bombs and stones at the officials.

The entire garments-manufacturing industry, the target of the raids, was shut down as a consequence . The operation continued all night.

Humlog kamate hain, paisa unko kyon dein'” (Why should we give them our hard-earned money)'” demanded the local traders.

Trouble started around 7 am, when the first of the simultaneous raids was made, and the large area, where Calcutta ends and South 24-Parganas begins, was tense till late in the evening.

At one place, troublemakers raised a false alarm, accusing the taxmen of being armed dacoits.

Five taxmen, including the man in charge of the day’s operation (Parthapratim Basak), were injured and treated in hospital. Ten of those found responsible for instigating the attacks on government officials on duty were arrested, South 24-Parganas superintendent of police Deb Kumar Ganguly said, though 15 were initially held.

The team of 11 taxmen knocked on the doors of seven large garment exporters, spread over Karbala Road, Padirhati and Kashyappara, in the Metiabruz and Rabindranagar areas. They were accompanied by 20 policemen from Barrackpore.

Officials later explained that the local police stations were not informed to pre-empt “selective leaks” that could jeopardise the raid. The small team of policemen could hardly provide protection. The team of 31 taxmen and policemen, splitting itself into seven smaller groups to raid seven different places simultaneously, made things worse.

The first of the simultaneous raids was carried out at 7 am at the Karbala Road residence of Babulal Lashkar, known to be a “patron” of the ruling party in the area, and the nearby garments market. The team was surrounded by a mob immediately after it reached there.

Questions about identity were raised — and met — and the raiders soon discovered they were the target of bombs, stones and blows. One stone hit Basak’s head and the driver of an income-tax vehicle, Asit Chakraborty, suffered a deep gash on his hand.

The cars were damaged and the accompanying policemen barely managed to retrieve the situation. Then the two local police stations were alerted.

The next raid was at the residence of the Fakirs, a family in the same trade, at Padirhati. As the team landed, local people shouted that the taxmen were armed dacoits. The officials again had to use force to protect themselves. Zaheer Fakir, a family member, explained that “a decade ago” dacoits had arrived in the guise of taxmen, which was why the alarm was raised.

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