The worst nightmare of Calcuttans who park their cars in the open came true for some Jodhpur Park residents when two warring groups from a neighbourhood slum smashed the windscreens of nine vehicles on Sunday night.
Some of the residents witnessed the hooliganism from their homes but feared stepping out to move their cars to safety because of the indiscriminate manner in which the mob went about attacking everyone and everything in their path.
“Youths aged between 20 and 25 were running about holding swords, hockey sticks, iron rods and bricks. I did not dare to stand on the balcony for much longer as the youths started beating up a young cyclist who had accidentally come in their way. I watched through a window as they began to smash one car after another,” recounted a 40-something woman.
“My husband and son were returning from a relative’s place. I immediately called them not to come back until the men had left,” she said.
Trouble began around 10.45pm, according to witnesses.
“I saw the youths smash the windscreen of the car I drive with a hockey stick. Some of them had swords. It was scary. They struck my car five times and one youth hurled a brick at the windscreen,” said Ajay Soni, the driver of a three-month-old Indigo belonging to businessman Pradipta Saha, who lives in Switzerland but was at his Jodhpur Park home during the incident.
Tollywood director Raj Chakraborty’s newly acquired maxi van was also damaged in the mayhem. “My Tata Winger was parked outside my office at Jodhpur Park. The mob shattered the windscreen and damaged the roof. I got a call from my office about the incident later. It’s a new car and I have to spend around Rs 40,000 on repairs. I don’t know if I will be compensated for the damage,” Chakraborty, the director of blockbusters like Challenge and Shatru, told Metro.
A car owner is entitled to insurance for damage caused in arson but making a claim requires lodging a police complaint, which some might be reluctant to do.
Police said the rampage was the fallout of a clash between members of the Yuva Shakti club adjacent to the Gobindapur railway colony and youths from a slum in Rahim Ostagar Lane who had allegedly interrupted their revelry on Saturday night.
“The club had organised a puja and a fair in the Jodhpur Park recreation area, behind Dakshinapan shopping complex. A throw-the-ball game with cash prizes to be won was the root of the clash,” an officer said.
Some of the slum-dwellers who lost money in that game had allegedly tried to interrupt the fair on Saturday night but fled when the police intervened. They allegedly returned on Sunday night to damage the decorative lights, triggering retaliation by the organisers.
“The scuffle quickly went out of control and the two groups began exchanging blows and throwing bricks and empty soft drink bottles at each other. Some of the youths then chased the other group and damaged several cars on their way,” said an officer at Lake police station.
Pedestrian Prince Kumar Singh, 20, was caught in the clash and critically injured. He has been admitted to Peerless Hospital. “My brother was headed for home (in Narendrapur) when some unidentified youths suddenly attacked him. He received five stitches on his right eyebrow, four at the back of his head and two more on his forehead. He also has severe chest, neck and shoulder injuries,” said Prince’s brother Sushant.
Pachugopal Halder, the chief fair organiser, was the lone man to be arrested till late on Monday. He has been charged with unlawful assembly, rioting and assault. The fair has been called off.
Senior police officers blamed the immunity being bestowed on a section of people in today’s Bengal for such incidents. “There are recent examples of people with political clout getting away with audacious attacks on rival party leaders,” said a senior police officer, alluding to the Bhangar incident.
Trinamul leader Arabul Islam had even won appreciation from party leaders after allegedly assaulting CPM leader Rezzak Mollah in daylight. “The police could have played a more active and neutral role in that case,” an officer said. “But that’s easier said than done.”
One of the groups involved in Sunday’s rampage has a Trinamul connection. Former councillor Ratan Dey is the president of Yuva Shakti but was unavailable for comment. Metro made several calls to his mobile phone, all of which went unanswered. None of the organisers would comment either.