A young Calcuttan was allegedly punched in the face and struck with a sharp piece of iron by some auto drivers for protesting when a speeding three-wheeler with faulty brakes threw him off his bike near Kalighat on Thursday.
Arnab Mitra, who turned 32 on Friday, spent his birthday shuttling between a police station to get the cops to act on his complaint and a hospital to get his injuries treated.
The police apparently have the names of all the accused but nobody had been arrested until late on Friday. The delay seemed to justify the defiance of the auto driver who had triggered the incident.
The accused, identified as Sadhu, had taunted Arnab in the middle of the assault on Thursday by saying: “Amake police-er bhoy dekhachhish? Arrest korabi? (Trying to scare me by taking the police’s name, are you? Think you can get me arrested?).”
Arnab, employed with a real estate company, had set off from his home in Nepal Bhattacharya Lane around 11am to meet a client when Sadhu’s auto (WB 04D 1242) took a sharp left turn and crashed into his motorbike. The young man was flung off his two-wheeler and fell on the footpath opposite Rashbehari Gurdwara.
“I got up and yelled at him and he said the brakes of his auto weren’t working properly. He was about to speed away but I caught him by his wrist and said I would take him to a sergeant for driving recklessly. Suddenly, I felt a punch in the face out of nowhere,” Arnab recounted.
Around five auto drivers allegedly surrounded him, saying he could either leave without a murmur or get beaten up. Arnab stood his ground, at which the auto gang pushed, punched and slashed at him with a sharp metal rod. “This is what they did to me,” Arnab said on Friday, pointing to a four-inch scar on the left side of his chest.
The assault might have continued longer had a group of residents not come to Arnab’s rescue. “I was standing across the street when I saw these auto drivers gang up on Arnab and throw him onto the ground. From their body language, it seemed some of them were intoxicated,” said a man who identified himself as Rabi.
Arnab said he was targeted for around 10 minutes before help arrived, prompting the gang to flee. As Arnab lay on the ground with a bloodied nose and other injuries, Rabi and some of the other residents chased and caught one of the auto drivers.
“Arnab was bleeding from his nose and mouth and his lips were swollen. He had bruises on his arms and his eyes were bloodshot,” said Subhajit Samaddar, a neighbour of the assaulted youth.
Arnab insisted that his neighbours first take him to Tollygunge police station instead of a hospital. “I went there hoping to see some urgency but the cops couldn’t care less. I was in front of them, the victim of an assault, and yet they seemed reluctant to act,” he recounted.
A telephone call to a family friend who is a retired assistant commissioner of police did prompt the police to register a complaint — Sadhu was named as the main accused along with one Rana — but they allegedly made little effort to trace the duo.
The accused have been charged with “voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon” and “abetment to an offence” under the IPC.
“Some auto drivers are a menace and need to be tackled. We are searching for the main accused and hope to arrest him soon,” a senior officer at Tollygunge police station said.
Arnab, who underwent some medical tests at MR Bangur Hospital, said the assault was so brutal that he feared being fatally injured until some residents intervened. “I have been reading about passengers being roughed up by auto drivers but I never thought it would happen to me in my neighbourhood.
Arnab had planned a day out with family and friends on his birthday, little knowing that he would end up on a date with the police and doctors instead.