| Stranded passengers outside the deserted prepaid taxi booth at Howrah station; (right) police try to disperse a crowd of taxi drivers outside Bankshall court ahead of the bail hearing of 21 cabbies. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya and Pradip Sanyal
A five-year-old girl on her way to school on Tuesday morning was left traumatised by a mob attack on the taxi she was travelling in with her father and grandfather.
The assailants, some of them wielding sticks, waylaid the vehicle at the crossing of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and Marquis Street and smashed its windshield before slapping and verbally abusing driver Tarak Roy for defying the taxi strike over “police excesses”.
The girl, a nursery student at Loreto House, was so terrified that she didn’t stop crying until she entered her school.
Her father Nilanjan Das Poddar, who had given up better professional opportunities outside Bengal to return to his hometown two years ago, recounted the taxi ordeal to Metro.
We were at the crossing of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and Marquis Street around 7.30am when a mob of 25 to 30 appeared from nowhere.
Since the vehicle was moving slowly, the mob was able to force our driver to stop. The moment he braked, they started hitting the windshield with sticks, smashing the glass. My five-year-old daughter started bawling and our taxi driver, who had stepped out by then, was slapped and pushed around.
I had little option but to alight and try and reason with those people to let us go. I said my little girl was terrified, only to be told that the children of the taxi drivers who had been arrested (for rioting with dangerous weapons during the protest by taxi drivers last week) were scared too.
Okay, I understand the plight of those children but does that mean that a mob can vandalise a taxi carrying passengers, including a five-year-old and a 69-year-old?
My father, Mridul Das Poddar, also pleaded with them not to hold us hostage but they were in no mood to listen. The incident probably lasted about five minutes but to me it seemed like ages.
It was only at the intervention of a few residents of the area that we could escape the chaos. We have a monthly contract with the taxi that was attacked to ferry my daughter to school, accompanied by my father, and bring her back home to Sinthee More after her school gives over at 10am.
After what happened on Tuesday, I didn’t want to leave the driver alone. So, after dropping my daughter at school, I accompanied him to Park Street police station. The police co-operated with us and agreed to visit the place where we had been stopped. But there was nobody there when we went back.
I had left Calcutta in 2006 and returned for a year before again relocating to Ahmedabad. In 2012, I had the option of shifting to Mumbai but my wife and I chose Calcutta despite having to make financial compromises. This incident has forced me to think if we would have been better off outside Calcutta.