Calcutta, Dec. 1: A young newspaper reporter was allegedly thrashed and attacked with a razor by an auto driver in Dum Dum when the scribe protested his misbehaviour with a lady passenger.
Joy Saha, 25, was dragged to the Trinamul auto union’s office and slashed, the blade narrowly missing him but slicing his shirt above the abdomen.
The personnel at Dum Dum police station allegedly made Joy sit for two hours before taking his complaint, by which time the news of his assault was being flashed on news channels.
Moments after the police accepted the FIR, a counter-complaint of assault was lodged by the driver of the auto Joy had boarded.
In the evening, transport minister Madan Mitra dubbed the incident “unfortunate” but added that the scribe and the driver had lodged complaints against each other.
“There are complaints from both parties. The police are doing their job,” he said. “The police can’t decide immediate who is the thief and who is the victim. So they went by the book and accepted both complaints. But it’s true that such incidents are happening with auto passengers at regular intervals.”
Joy, a resident of Mahendranagar (five minutes’ walk from the auto stand near St Mary’s Orphanage), had protested when driver Biju Saha allegedly insulted a woman around 11.30am for failing to give the exact fare.
The lady gave Rs 10 after getting off at the auto stand in Dum Dum. The three other passengers, including Joy, also gave notes of the same denomination.
But the auto driver insisted that they give the exact fare of Rs 6 each. When the lady rummaged in her bag and took out the change, Saha allegedly passed a lewd remark. He also spoke about “a regular tendency of passengers to hold back change”.
“I asked the driver not to make such sweeping statements and also reminded him to mind his manners while speaking to a woman. The driver got off and slapped me. Other drivers at the auto stand surrounded me and dragged me to their union room,” Joy said.
“Saha tried to slash me with a razor, which missed me by a whisker. The left side of my shirt was torn off,” the scribe said.
As a crowd gathered, the auto drivers called the police. A team of cops took Joy, Saha and one Bishsheswar Das, who had apparently asked the journalist not to drag the issue, to Dum Dum police station. All three were released on bail.
Senior police officers admitted that the auto driver could have been booked under a non-bailable section for attacking Joy with a razor. Instead, Saha was charged under Section 324 of the IPC, which involves “voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon”.
An officer said Saha could have even been charged with attempt to murder.
Saha denied the charges against him. “I neither assaulted him nor tried to slash him. After he said he was a journalist, I took him to the union office for discussions,” the driver said.
Barrackpore additional deputy commissioner Subhankar Bhattacharjee said the case appeared to be that of a scuffle. “We arrested three persons on the basis of the complaint and the counter-complaint. The preliminary probe suggests a scuffle had taken place and charges have been drawn up accordingly. If something new crops up during the course of the investigation, additional charges would be slapped,” he said.
Commuters said today’s incident had proved that the government’s attempts to rein in auto drivers had yielded little result so far.