Posters on a wall of the international terminal and (right) vehicles being stopped for checking on Tuesday. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta
An airport employee was beaten up in front of the international terminal on Tuesday afternoon, while polling for the airport employees’ union was on, as passengers and their relatives present at the spot were left hoping such incidents wouldn’t scar the recently opened integrated terminal.
The airport employee, who police identified as Nishit De, had just stepped out of his maroon sedan between the international and Haj terminals when around six men attacked him, raining slaps, kicks and punches. Section 144 had been clamped in the area as the polling booth was set up at the Haj terminal.
The assaulters demanded that the police seize De’s car and when they did not react, the men were heard screaming: “Chharbi naa. Jete dibi naa (Don’t leave him. Don’t allow him to go).”
The police and security forces initially failed to free De from his attackers. After he was rescued, De was taken away in a police van.
But passengers had seen enough by then. “I was shocked and disgusted. How can airport employees involve themselves in a scuffle?” asked Ranjit Ray, 55, at the international terminal to see off wife Sumitra, who was taking an Air India flight to Chicago via Delhi. “I am ashamed as a Calcuttan and hope this doesn’t spill over to the new terminal.”
Wang Yusang, 21, a Shanghai resident who flew home on Tuesday evening after a 15-day stint with a voluntary organisation in Calcutta, saw a group of people pushing and shouting and many clicking pictures on their cell phones. “I thought some superstar had come to the airport. I didn’t know about the political problem,” he said.
Senior airport officials are apprehensive about the new union’s stand on the recent privatisation of key passenger facilities at the airport. “Both unions have been quiet about it till now. But we don’t know how the new body will react,” said a senior official. Trinamul’s Indian Airports Kamgarh Union defeated the reigning CPM-backed Airports Authority of India Employees’ Union by 199 votes on Tuesday.
The polling day at the airport saw a few more instances of violence. Several cars carrying passengers to the international terminal were stopped and searched by plainclothesmen, who were not CRPF personnel, sources said.
A fire services department employee alleged that he was beaten up by “outsiders” near the parking lot for airport employees. The incident that took place around 10am led to another scuffle between supporters of the two unions.
Santosh Nimbalkar, the additional deputy commissioner of police, airport, said: “The incidents were minor and everything was peaceful after we intervened. There were no complaints.”