| The girl (centre) whose hand was fractured along with other residents who got injured. (Subhash Chandra Bose)
Alipurduar, Oct. 19: Five policemen, including the Alipurduar subdivisional police officer, were injured when a mob attacked them at Satali Tea Estate last night for demolishing seven alleged gambling stalls at a fair held alongside a Durga Puja.
The mob also smashed the windscreens of two police vehicles. A 13-year-old girl fractured her right hand when the law enforcers were razing the stalls to the ground.
The injured policemen were rescued by members of the puja committee and escorted out of the fair, located 41km from Alipurduar town.
The spot is close to the residence of Manohar Tirkey, the Bengal minister of state for the public works department.
The puja committee members denied the police allegation that people were gambling at the stalls.
“The stalls in question had set up a number of games, like darts and ring-throw (where people throw rings at articles placed at a distance and get to take away the ones that they encircle),” said Jogesh Thami, the joint secretary of the Satali Tea Garden puja committee.
“The police had told us beforehand that no gambling or liquor stall should be allowed in the fair and we had followed the instruction completely,” Thami added.
The police, however, stuck to their story.
“This year, we are determined to stop gambling at any fair or puja pandal. That is why a police team had gone to the tea garden last night and demolished the stalls,” said Alipurduar additional superintendent of police K.B. Dorji.
The police team, led by Alipurduar subdivisional police officer Deborshi Dutta, arrived at the fair around 9.30pm. The law enforcers then proceeded to demolish seven stalls where games were being played.
The action prompted a large mob of around 100 people to gather and attack the policemen. The people surrounded the law enforcers and threw stones at them. Dutta was hit on the forehead while four others were injured.
A few residents, too, got injured in the melee.
“We somehow managed to rescue the police officials and escort them out,” said Thami. “Unfortunately, because of last night’s incident, people could not enjoy the puja properly and we also had to cancel a children’s cultural programme, which will instead be held tonight.”
He added that the fair has been extended till Sunday. “We are banking on a big turnout tonight because now the affected stall-owners are demanding damages from us,” said the committee secretary.
The additional superintendent of police, however, hinted that the case was not closed yet. “Till now nobody has been arrested but we have already started an investigation,” Dorji said.