| Susmita Chanda (face covered) leaves Sealdah court on Friday. Picture by Biswarup Dutta
Calcutta, Aug. 31: When a bus nearly ran her and her child over this morning, Susmita Chanda did something she had never done. She picked up a stone from the road.
The mother in her early 30s walked up to a traffic constable, hit him in the hand and then slapped him. “My daughter and I nearly got killed. It’s your fault,” she said.
Judge M. Mishra is used to sending people to jail. But after he ordered three days’ remand for Susmita, he pondered over his decision for four-and-a-half hours.
“I realised I was wrong, wrong…” he said.
He called the accused back just as she had climbed into the prison van and let her off.
“I didn’t do anything intentionally,” Susmita told him. “Sir, I’m a mother….”
Perhaps it was because her child, too, nearly got killed as the two of them crossed BT Road near Chiria More, just opposite the girl’s school. Or perhaps it was pent-up anger at reckless buses that have killed so many people in the past few weeks, and the government’s failure to do anything about it.
“It was around 10.20am. There was heavy north-bound traffic. A motorcyclist hit a taxi from the rear and fell down, and I rushed from my post near the school to help,” constable Abdul Mannan Mullick, 41, from the Shyambazar Traffic Guard recalled.
“I saw the lady cross the road holding on to her daughter. She dropped the child to school and then hit my right hand with a stone. Before I could react, she slapped me.”
A crowd formed. Personnel rushed in from the Cossipore police station a few yards away. After the usual jostling and angry shouts, Susmita was marched off to the police station and arrested for assaulting a public servant on duty.
She walked into Sealdah court around 12.45pm and was produced before Mishra, the acting additional chief judicial magistrate, flanked by women constables, the public prosecutor and her lawyer Sekhar Banik.
Some of her relatives, too, had reached the court and by 2.30, husband Sudip arrived from his Park Circus office. But by then, Susmita had been remanded and sent to the court lockup.
“There must have been strong provocation…” Sudip’s voice had descended to a croak as he paced outside the lockup.
The hours passed and preparations began to shift the prisoner to jail. Around 6pm, Susmita came down the rear stairs flanked by two women constables. With one hand she clutched a plastic packet, with the other she drew her aanchal across her face.
A couple of minutes later, as the driver revved up, a man in a white shirt came bounding towards the black van.
“Where is the woman who has been sent to judicial custody' The judge is looking for her,” he said.
The court had nearly closed and except for a few lawyers and Susmita’s husband and relatives, everyone had left.
At 6.35, the hearing began and once again Mishra asked Susmita why she had slapped the constable. Her voice faltered but the judge listened intently, then began scribbling on the order sheet.
A Rs 1,000 personal release bond. Weekly appearances at the police station for a month. For now, Susmita would be going home.