| Sonia Karwalia: Action louder than words
Calcutta, June 18: Where the chief minister’s repeated appeals have failed, a sportswoman today succeeded by using her fists on a policeman.
Sonia Karwalia, who represented Bengal in the 2003 cycling nationals, punched a traffic constable at Ultadanga crossing for rudely refusing to take down the number of a bus that had hit her scooter and nearly killed her.
The 25-year-old’s action comes amid a spate of accusations from women about police refusing to register complaints despite Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s instructions not to harass the public.
“Ghoos lene ke liye to hath turant nikalta hai; bus ka number likhne me kya taklif hoti hai (your hands are ever ready to reach out for a bribe; why are you so shy of taking down the number of a bus)'” Sonia shouted at the constable.
Sonia was returning home from the airport with a relative on the pillion when her scooter was knocked down by a speeding bus at the foot of the Ultadanga flyover around 10.45 am.
Her helmet was crushed under the rear wheels of the bus but the two riders saved themselves by rolling over on the asphalt.
“Had I not rolled over in time, I would have met the same fate as my helmet. The bus driver was reckless,” Sonia said.
She got up and rushed towards the two constables on duty, shouting at them to take down the number of the route 237 bus that was speeding away towards Ultadanga station.
“I asked them repeatedly' but they rudely told me to go away,” Sonia said.
“She was very excited and was shouting at the top of her voice,” an eyewitness said. “She grabbed one of the policemen by his leather straps and shook him vigorously. Then she punched him.”
As the other constable stepped forward, Sonia warned him: “You stay where you are; let me sort this out.”
By then a traffic sergeant had arrived. He pacified Sonia and registered the complaint. “I tried to track the bus down, but as neither the lady nor the constables had noted the number, we are yet to trace it,” the sergeant said.
Sonia, a resident of Gokul Boral Lane in central Calcutta, had gone to the airport to buy tickets for a Delhi flight. She has retired from cycling and helps her mother with the family business.
The deputy commissioner of police (traffic), Jawed Shamim, accepted that the constable was at fault but added: “She shouldn’t have assaulted him. She should have gone to the traffic guard office or written to us.”
Approaching police stations, however, doesn’t always seem to work. Yesterday, 21-year-old Ruma Pal, complaining of dowry torture, was turned away at three police stations before the North 24-Parganas superintendent came to her aid.
On Friday, just when the chief minister was telling the lawkeepers to treat the poor with respect, a 65-year-old widow was thrown out of a police station in Nadia.