| A policeman being accosted by a mob at Sujapur on Sunday. Picture by Surajit Roy
Sujapur (Malda), Jan. 1: Tension sparked by the suspected rumour of a cattle seizure by BSF jawans and their alleged misbehaviour with women prompted over a thousand people to attack police and picnickers here today.
A police station inspector-in-charge and four of his colleagues were beaten up by the mob, which snatched rifles and a wireless set from them and valuables from the picnickers.
Sagar Saha, the inspector in charge of Kaliachak police station, and his men were held hostage in Bakharpur Primary School, 25 km from Malda town, from where they were rescued over an hour later.
No arrests were reported till late in the evening but district superintendent of police Dilip Mondol and additional superintendent Sujit Sarkar were camping at Bakharpur village. A company of RAF personnel has been deployed in the area.
The injured policemen have been admitted to the district hospital.
National highway 34, which starts in North 24-Parganas and ends in North Dinajpur, was to be closed to traffic for about two hours for Id prayers this morning. But traffic remained paralysed for around eight hours because of the violence that started around 10.
Residents of Bakharpur, who had gathered about a kilometre from their village for prayers, apparently heard some people say that BSF jawans were threatening women and taking away their cattle.
As the rumours, and the news that hundreds of people were rushing to Bakharpur to catch the jawans, reached the police, Saha and his team set out for the village.
The mob, which did not find any BSF jawan in Bakharpur, marched up to the highway, about 2 km away, and set up a blockade.
They damaged six government buses, two cars carrying New Year revellers and a police Sumo. The two police rifles that were snatched have been found, but not the wireless set.
“We are not sure if the BSF actually entered the village. I have spoken to senior BSF officers and they told me that no such operation took place today,” the Malda police chief said.
Mondol said the identity of the people behind the alleged cattle theft is a mystery.
“Besides, reports about the number of missing cattle heads is varying wildly — between seven and 70. We don’t even know who owned them,” Mondol said.