Three engineers came to the rescue of the youngsters and their driver who were being punched and slashed by six rogue bikers on NH6 on Thursday night, after vehicles had whizzed past them for more than 10 minutes.
The bikers had followed the car in which the four young DJs were returning to the city from a programme at an engineering college in West Midnapore almost 10km from a Kolaghat dhaba before blocking its path at Bir Shibpur.
“We saw a red Zen Estillo standing in the middle of highway at an angle. A bike was parked behind it and some men were beating up two boys. A girl was sitting on the road. Another girl was desperately trying to flag down vehicles that were passing by. We immediately stopped our car and ran to the group,” said Manas Mondal, one of the engineers.
Seeing the three, the bikers quickly got on their bikes — “three Bajaj Avengers, all without registration numbers”, according to the youths — and sped towards Dhulagarh toll plaza.
The engineers, who work for the National Highways Authority of India, gave the youths and their driver water. After the five told them what had happened, Mondal, who had the phone numbers of Howrah police traffic control and Dhulagarh toll plaza, alerted the cops there.
But the quick tip-off did not translate to quick action even though a patrol jeep of Uluberia police station was reportedly parked in front of a roadside eatery barely 200m away. The owner of the eatery and several others confirmed the police presence though senior officers denied it.
The police eventually reached the spot half an hour later and allegedly spent considerable time trying to pick holes in the youths’ account until Mondal intervened to vouch for their version of events.
“I even offered to the cops to depose in court if needed and gave the youngsters my phone number,” said Mondal, who along with his colleagues was returning to the city after attending a meeting in Kharagpur. “I felt terrible that so many cars had not stopped to help the youths. Had we not stopped, the girls might have been raped and the boys killed.”
A mobile phone that one of the alleged assailants, Rahim Mollah, left behind at the spot eventually led to his arrest.
“Mollah’s phone had the number of his mother saved under ‘ma’. We immediately called her and told her that we had found her son’s mobile phone on the road and asked for their address,” said an officer of Uluberia police station.
Some cops then went to the address at Jagadishpur village, under Uluberia police station, that she gave and picked up Mollah there early on Friday.
“Mollah, a tailor, told us that he had recently bought a new bike and went to Sher-e-Punjab with his friends to celebrate the occasion. He has given us the names of the other five accused,” said Sukhendu Hira, additional superintendent of police, Howrah (rural).
The police have started a case of grievous assault (Section 325 of the IPC) and molestation (Section 354) against Mollah and five others. If proved guilty, they can be imprisoned for up to seven years.