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Lock-up for cracker protest

Behrampore, Nov. 12: Sumantra Roy was beaten up by Kali puja organisers early this morning as he protested against cracker bursts.

Police arrived within 10 minutes. They picked up a battered Sumantra, 32, and locked him up. He was released around 11 this morning.

At the Behrampore General Hospital he received stitches on his head and first-aid, hours after he was bruised.

The police said they went to K.K. Banerjee Road here, about 200 km from Calcutta, following instructions from subdivisional officer Amit Chowdhury. 'Someone told the SDO over phone that a drunk was trying to disrupt a puja there. So we went and picked up Sumantra Roy,' said an officer.

The police neither bothered to confirm the charge made over phone nor cared about injuries on the alleged culprit.

Sumantra said his neighbour Anil Poddar, a retired chief engineer of the public health department, had organised the puja at home. 'Banned crackers were being burst and we could not sleep as repeated explosions rocked the neighbourhood. My 70-year-old father has suffered two strokes. After midnight, I thrice requested them to stop, but they did not pay any heed,' he said.

Around 2 am, Sumantra went to the Poddars. 'At this, about a dozen people pounced on me. Neighbours rushed to my rescue' I was bleeding... But the policemen dragged me away and locked me up. They told me they were working under instructions from the SDO,' Sumantra added.

One of the neighbours, Abdul Rezzak, said: 'We went out hearing a commotion and saw Sumantra being beaten up.'

Chowdhury said Poddar called him around 2 this morning and 'told me that a drunk youth was trying to disrupt the puja. I asked the police to intervene'. This morning, a mob of about 200 people gheraoed Chowdhury when he went to K.K. Banerjee Road for an on-the-spot probe. Soon realising what actually happened, the officer ordered the police to free Sumantra.

On being released from the hospital, Sumantra lodged a complaint with superintendent of police, Gyanwant Singh, and district magistrate N. Manjunatha Prasad.

Singh said he has identified the duty officer. 'But I was told that Sumantra was picked up and later released following orders from the SDO. I will speak to the district magistrate.'

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