| The charred police jeep being prepared for tow-away. Picture by Soumen Bhattacharjee
Barasat, Feb. 1: A constable suffered a cracked skull and an officer a bruised head as Trinamul Congress rabble-rousers led residents of a North 24-Parganas neighbourhood into an assault on police, who they said were dragging feet over the 'murder' of a local youth.
The mob set fire to Bongaon subdivisional police officer Arnab Ghosh's jeep, battered three other police vehicles and then targeted the Dhaka-bound bus from Calcutta at Dharampur in Gaighata, about 80 km from the city.
Sushanta Sarkar, 28, a Trinamul supporter, was found dead in a pond last Friday.
Today's trouble began around 10.45 am, when the Trinamul supporters blocked Jessore Road. Policemen, who went to clear the blockade on the busy highway, were attacked with brickbats and outnumbered. Wireless alerts rang out in adjacent police stations and personnel from Bongaon, Habra, Ashoknagar and Gobardanga ' led by Ghosh ' rushed to the spot.
A pitched battle followed. Pieces of stone and chunks of brick, lying by the road for repair work on the highway, provided ammunition to the protesters. The policemen, most of them without shields, were rendered toothless in the face of a fusillade of brickbats.
Jawans of the Rapid Action Force had to be called in.
Four injured policemen had to be taken to Bongaon Subdivisional Hospital. The constable with the skull injury was shifted to SSKM Hospital.
Sixty people were held. The Trinamul supporters were 'innocent', said Mamata Banerjee. 'The police arrested 32 of them. They even lodged an FIR against our Gaighata MLA, though he was in Calcutta at the time of the incident' It is ridiculous.' She added that 16 Trinamul supporters were injured and six of them had to be moved to the city.
North 24-Parganas police chief Praveen Kumar described the Trinamul supporters who blocked the highway as 'miscreants'. He added: 'It is criminal to block a national highway. We had to open fire to disperse the mob once it attacked the Calcutta-Dhaka bus.'
The protesters smashed windowpanes of the bus, which was caught in the melee.
Kumar said by the time another police reinforcement arrived around 11.30 am, the mob had swelled. 'A dozen vehicles were damaged.'
Local Trinamul MLA Jyotipriya Mullick went to Gaighata police station around 3 to protest against the arrest of Trinamul supporters. 'We had to block the road,' he said. 'The police are refusing to accept a complaint regarding Sushanta's murder. They are trying to shield the culprits,' he added.
The police chief, however, said a complaint regarding Sushanta's alleged murder has already been lodged by his father Haripada.