|A squatter lies while another sits on the road opposite Kasba police station on Wednesday night; cars stranded on Bijon Setu because of the blockade. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta
Calcutta, Jan. 2: The arterial Rash Behari Connector that links the heart of south Calcutta with EM Bypass was closed for almost four hours tonight as a mob squatted in the middle of the road demanding that a man they accused of raping a child be handed over to them.
The blockade that began around 7.25pm in front of the Kasba police station covered both flanks of the connector by 10.45pm and police were forced to close the road between Bijan Setu and Kasba police station for several hours.
Attempts at persuasion and promise of strong action against the alleged rapist failed to convince the protesters, who kept changing their demand. They sought the intervention of Mamata Banerjee.
The police were pelted with stones and men and women lay on the road. Many personnel locked themselves inside Kasba police station and some in battle gear were on the road.
Around 11pm, reinforcements arrived and resorted to a lathicharge to remove the blockade. The protesters retaliated with stones. Broadcast vehicles of television channels were damaged by the mob and journalists were chased and stoned.
The roads were cleared by 11.20pm. Traffic returned to normal by midnight.
A senior Kasba police officer said: “When we pushed them back, there was no other option remaining. All attempts at persuasion had failed.”
Some blamed the flak Delhi police had got in their handling of the rape protests for the slow response of cops in Calcutta tonight.
The Gariahat-Ruby flank was blocked initially and then both flanks.Vehicles heading towards Ruby from Gariahat were diverted through Haltu. Gariahat-bound vehicles were told to avoid the Rash Behari Connector.
A three-year-old girl was allegedly raped on December 31 by a man in his late 20s.
Local residents alleged that the girl today complained about physical torture and the accused tried to bribe the parents to hush up the matter. However, the parents lodged a complaint at Kasba police station around 6.30pm and the accused was picked up from home almost immediately.
“But the mob was adamant that we hand over the accused to them,” said a senior officer of Kasba police station.
Leaders of a political outfit who were at the police station in connection with another issue allegedly fanned the local sentiments.
Many saw in the lynch-mob mentality an unwelcome offshoot of the recent high-voltage protests against rape and the demand for actions like hanging and castration.
The Supreme Court recently slammed a trial court judge for bringing up practices like lynching and eye-for-eye retributive policies while sentencing a man to death for murder, saying India’s judicial system could not “import” such “barbaric” justice.