|Shailesh outside Tehatta police station on Thursday. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh
Tehatta (Nadia), Nov. 15: A young IPS officer today confirmed he had fired his pistol thrice from a rooftop at Tehatta but added that had he not done so, “the mob would have killed us”.
Shailesh, the subdivisional police officer of Tehatta where one person died yesterday, said he had found himself isolated from the rest of his force and ringed by around 500 people, many of them carrying bricks.
“I was almost surrounded by the mob. I started running without knowing where I was heading. I just kept running as fast as possible. I saw that the door of a roadside, single-storey house was open. All three of us (the officer and two security guards) entered the house,” recounted the 33-year-old doctor-turned-IPS officer. His left hand is bandaged because of a wound apparently caused by a brick thrown by the crowd.
The house belonged to Tufan Ghosh, a movie hall booking clerk who also rents out a car. Although Ghosh bolted the door after the officer and his aides rushed in, Shailesh said he did not feel safe.
“The angry locals were kicking the door. We were lucky that the door was made of iron sheet. They tried to break it open. Sensing trouble, I went to the roof with my security guards. When I reached the roof, I took my pistol out of the holster. I pulled the trigger thrice,” the SDPO said.
“Agar main goli nahi chalata to woh log hume maar dete (If I had not opened fire, the mob would have killed us),” said Shailesh, who hails from Uttar Pradesh.
“After leaving the rooftop, I called my wife. She told me that a group of men had assembled in front of my office-cum-bungalow and were throwing stones. I immediately contacted my superiors seeking reinforcements,” Shailesh said.
The statement offers clarity on one count. It was not clear yesterday whether the officer and his family had come under attack simultaneously and the officer had opened fire after word reached that his wife and infant son were in danger.
Tufan said: “I heard what sounded like gunshots from my rooftop. I ran to the roof and saw the officer running from one corner to another with a gun in his hand. I requested the officer with folded hands not to fire at people from the roof of my house. They came down and spent an hour in my house. I saw him sitting silently with his head down once he heard that people were hurling stones at his house.”
The SDPO was escorted out through the rear door and taken to another house owned by former PWD employee Sachin Kumar Nath. “Nath’s house is close to the SDPO’s bungalow. He spent another hour there before entering his bungalow as reinforcements arrived from adjoining police stations,” Tufan said.
Police sources said that the SDPO could not go to his family immediately because of the crowd outside.
At least one veteran officer suggested the inexperience of the young SDPO — this was the first independent field operation under Shailesh’s command — could have led to miscalculations. Shailesh has been an SDPO only for a little over a month (not three months as reported yesterday).
“Around 8.10am, I heard of the road blockade (put up by a group protesting the administration’s request to shift the site of a puja). I went there and held talks with the agitators. After half an hour of talks, they agreed to lift the blockade from the highway. They cleared the road,” Shailesh said.
“Out of the blue, some of them again squatted on the road. Others too joined them. I then ordered a lathicharge to remove them. We had to burst nine teargas shells and fire three rubber bullets and five plastic bullets. It did not work and the mob began to rain brickbats on the police. They chased away the policemen,” Shailesh said.
An officer with 20 years’ experience said: “There were only 25 policemen against an assembly of 500-plus. The officer did the right thing by holding talks. However, if that did not work, the officer should have waited for reinforcements before applying force. The sight of a wide array of uniformed personnel often acts as a deterrent.”