Durgapur, Nov. 14: Jawans of the India Reserve Battalion turned violent last night as residents of a housing complex here tried to resist their lewd behaviour during a soiree.
Five people, including a woman nine months pregnant, were injured at Bidhannagar Government Housing, about 200 km from Calcutta, as jawans armed with brickbats, hockey sticks and cricket bats beat up residents, damaged the dais and then pulled down the wood and bamboo structure. Vehicles were damaged and windowpanes broken.
Initially, a group of 20 jawans was forced out of the complex after some of them behaved indecently. But around 10.30 pm, they came back armed and launched the assault hurling stones at the flats.
The residents alleged that the drunk jawans also molested women.
Five of them were detained today. Burdwan superintendent of police N.K. Singh said: 'We have started a case on charges of ransacking during the soiree. We have also seized from the spot lathis, hockey sticks and cricket bats that the jawans had brought. We will arrest the culprits as soon as they are identified.'
One of the detained jawans was arrested tonight.
This morning, the jawans attacked residents buying provisions at a zonal market. Personnel from the New Township police station resorted to a lathicharge to disperse them.
Singh said only the commanding officer of the battalion ' a special force set up by the state government with funds from the Centre ' has the authority to take disciplinary action against the jawans.
P.T. Sherpa, the commanding officer, declined comment.
The police said about 700 jawans are undergoing training at the barracks, about half-a-kilometre from the complex.
Residents alleged that around 9.30 pm, the jawans entered the complex and made passes at women. When asked to behave, the jawans hurled abuses and an altercation with the soiree organisers soon snowballed into a scuffle.
'But we outnumbered them and managed to push them out. An hour later, a larger number of jawans returned armed and started beating us up,' said Partha Ghosh, the treasurer of Bidhannagar Cultural Club, which had organised the programme.
Ghosh's pregnant wife Jharna was attacked when she tried to rescue him. 'I could do little. My husband was surrounded by many jawans,' she said.
A large police force finally chased the jawans and pushed them back to their barracks.
Witnesses said the jawans picked up chairs and hurled them in the air, broke lights and uprooted bamboos that held the dais.
Panic-stricken residents and the rest of the audience began running as the jawans went on the rampage. 'They beat us with lathis and hockey sticks. I was hit in the leg. These jawans regularly tease women,' said Navin Kumar Mahato, a student of National Institute of Technology who came to visit his elder brother.