Barun Santra being wheeled into the operation theatre
Calcutta, Oct. 13: An auto driver allegedly slapped and punched a 30-year-old passenger in the face, fracturing his nose in three places, after a spat over the driver’s refusal to hand back a change of Rs 6.
Barun Santra’s family said that despite seeing the victim bleed profusely, police were initially reluctant to register a complaint. After a family member “screamed” in frustration inside Ghola police station, they filed just a general diary which, unlike an FIR, does not warrant a formal probe.
An ENT specialist said a blow that fractures the nose can lead to a fatal brain infection and meningitis. Barun underwent nasal bone reconstruction surgery tonight at a BT Road nursing home.
Friday night’s incident on a crowded Sodepur street about 15km from the city centre — during which Barun’s father Asit, 62, too was allegedly slapped — quickly fell into the now-familiar pattern of lawless auto drivers and reluctant-to-act police.
“They took my complaint only after I screamed,” said Barun’s brother-in-law Sajal Bhattacharya, adding that the officer on duty initially refused to act despite being given the last four digits of the auto’s registration number, which Barun remembered.
Contacted at 7.30pm today, detective department deputy commissioner Kalyan Mukherjee accepted “an FIR should have been drawn” but provided an unusual explanation why it wasn’t.
“The complainant insisted we take a general diary,” Mukherjee said. The family said it was the police who insisted on the general diary.
A few hours after this newspaper’s call, Mukherjee said the accused, Debasish Saha, had been arrested from Khardah and booked not only for causing grievous hurt but also for attempt to murder — hardly ever invoked against auto drivers.
In August, a driver who refused to stop after a four-year-old girl fell off his auto and was dragged along was arrested days later only after The Telegraph published the news. He was booked merely for rash driving and causing hurt and immediately got bail.
Barun, who has a three-year-old son, and Asit were returning home from their gold-plating workshop on Beadon Street and boarded the auto from Sodepur More around 8.15pm, Asit said.
“We got down at Kathgola. My son gave the driver a Rs 20 note and asked for the Rs 6 change. The driver refused, asking us to pay the exact amount instead. When we pleaded helplessness, he abused Barun, slapped him and punched him repeatedly in the face,” Asit said. “Two more autos stopped and their drivers joined in.”
After the drivers left, Barun dialled Sajal, who arrived quickly. “Barun was bleeding profusely but I took him to the police first to inform them. I told the duty officer we would return to lodge a complaint after arranging Barun’s treatment,” Sajal said.
Arunabha Sengupta, the head of ENT at SSKM Hospital, said the sort of injury Barun suffered could sometimes turn fatal. “First, uncontrolled bleeding can be fatal. Also, such a blow can injure the ethmoid bone at the back of the nasal bone, leading to a brain infection and meningitis, which can be fatal.”