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Jawans’ bullets kill Puja shoppers

Midnapore, Aug. 31: Humiliated by local toughs, a group of Central Industrial Security Force jawans took revenge by opening fire inside a Haldia market packed with Puja shoppers tonight, killing two persons and severely wounding a third.

Liquor shop owner Dhiman Pradhan, 35, and municipal worker Shanti Sashmal, 42, lay dead and shopkeeper Ashoke Samanta slumped to the ground bleeding while terrified shoppers ran helter-skelter, police said.

The first hint of trouble came around 7.30 pm when a group of plain-clothes CISF jawans, while shopping at the Chiranjivpur market, picked a quarrel with some people whom the shopkeepers described as “anti-socials”.

“They cornered two CISF jawans and began shoving them. They managed to push the jawans into a footwear shop,” a shopkeeper said.

Worried that the commotion would hinder business, the shopkeepers separated the two groups and asked both to leave. “We told them firmly that this was the season for Puja shopping. If they had to fight, they had better go elsewhere,” the shopkeeper said.

Both groups left in a huff, but Gopal Pramanick got curious when he saw the jawans huddled outside the market.

“They were talking excitedly,” the seller of imitation jewellery said. “One of them pulled a mobile phone out of his pocket and shouted to someone — probably a colleague at the CISF unit about 600 metres away.”

It was around 8.15 when, eyewitnesses said, several jeeps screeched to a halt and some 20 armed and uniformed jawans jumped out.

“One of them fired a single shot in the air. As if on cue, the others immediately began shooting in every direction,” Pramanick said.

After about five minutes of mayhem, the jawans left. Soon the police arrived.

“When I reached the spot everyone was in panic. We calmed the crowd down and prevented a mob from attacking the CISF barracks,” said B.K. Pal, the officer in charge of Haldia police station, which is just 1 km from the market.

“We also surrounded the area to prevent any further attack from the CISF jawans. We have contacted the CISF commandant in Haldia town and are trying to find out how many rounds were fired. We are yet to arrest anyone.”

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