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Midnight mayhem: cops plead and cower in the line of army fire - Salute and ‘sir’ save the day

The turf was his, and so was the time. But just after midnight in the duty officers’ room of Park Street police station, Bidhan Chandra Khatua, of the traffic department of Calcutta Police, was gripped by a fear he had never known before.

Staring down the nozzle of the semi-automatic rifle held to his forehead by a jawan from the Madras Regiment of the Indian Army, the officer in his late 30s did what came naturally to him — he stooped to grab the armyman’s knees and plead, “Aami kichhu jani na (I don’t know anything)...

Khatua was trying to convince the jawan who had a finger on the trigger that he had nothing to do with two officers of the Madras Regiment ending up in the Park Street police station lock-up with other unruly revellers.

Bangla mein baat mat kar, jo bolna hai Hindi mein bol (Do not speak in Bengali, whatever you have to say, say it in Hindi),” the jawan shouted at Khatua, before slapping him and then smashing the butt of his rifle against the policeman’s head.

The army raid just after 2007 dawned left the Park Street police station ravaged and every cop on duty rattled.

Even 12 hours after Lt Col Pratap Singh, Major Kavi and their men had gone on the rampage, the policemen looked traumatised.

Motilal Chowdhury, the constable at the main gate, was the first target. “Two of the jawans beat me up, tore my uniform, threw my cap away and abused me,” he recounted.

Duty officer Uttam Mukherjee decided to be safe rather than sorry after receiving a slap. “I started saluting all of them and referring to them as ‘Sir’,” he admitted.

Once inside, the armymen went on the rampage. “They tossed out my chair and overturned the table,” said Buddhadeb Kundu, who was held at gunpoint while the jawans snatched the keys to the lock-up from him.

A few cops dived for cover in the room of the additional officer-in-charge and bolted the door, but the jawans stuck their guns in through the ventilator and threatened to open fire, said Pradip Chatterjee, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.

Once the door was opened, seven jawans ransacked the room. “They even destroyed valuable documents and papers,” alleged Chatterjee.

A civilian witness to the army attack was Shankar Hom Roy, who had come to Park Street police station to lodge a complaint.

“The armymen were about to assault me as well when I told them in English that such behaviour towards a civilian in a police station was not acceptable. That somehow made them spare me,” said Hom Roy, who then saw the jawans go on the rampage, damaging furniture, abusing and assaulting policemen.

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