A bus conductor allegedly molested a passenger inside a crowded vehicle racing down the Bypass on Saturday evening, triggering a bout of mob fury typical of Calcutta following any such incident.
Co-passengers of the young woman who was allegedly molested forced the driver to stop the bus near the Hudco crossing at Ultadanga and damaged the vehicle. Some people who weren’t in the bus joined in, outnumbering the few policemen trying to disperse the crowd.
The conductor, identified as Wali Ali Khan, was arrested after reinforcements arrived from the nearest police station and chased away those involved in the vandalism.
The police quoted the complainant as saying that Wali, a resident of Chitpur, molested her while collecting the fare. The incident occurred around 9pm, when the Calcutta Station-Garia bus was near the Mani Square mall.
“The bus was crowded. Near Mani Square, the conductor started collecting the fare from passengers standing near where I was. He behaved indecently on the pretext of reaching out for the money. When I protested, he accused me of ‘standing in the wrong place’,” the woman said.
The 23-year-old from Madhyamgram stood her ground, supported by some of her co-passengers. “A few of the other passengers said the conductor wasn’t guilty. When the bus halted at the Hudco crossing, those who had backed the woman’s allegation alighted along with her to protest,” said an officer at Maniktala police station.
Some bystanders joined in, demanding the conductor’s arrest. “Suddenly, a section of the passengers and the crowd that had milled on the road turned violent. They damaged the windshield and windowpanes of the bus. Policemen from a nearby kiosk were soon outnumbered,” the officer recounted.
The arrival of a larger police team led those vandalising the vehicle to flee. “We brought the conductor to the police station and arrested him after the woman lodged a complaint about molestation against him,” the officer said.
Wali has been booked under Section 354 of the IPC that provides for a jail term of up to five years for “outraging the modesty of a woman”. The conductor was produced in Sealdah court on Sunday and remanded in judicial custody for three days.