The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Password yesterday, pariah today

Calcutta, Jan. 6: For Sulekha Building’s boarders — all constables of the reserve force of Calcutta Police — things seem to have changed dramatically with traffic sergeant Bapi Sen’s death.

Five of their colleagues had battered Bapi when he protested against their eve-teasing on New Year’s eve.

Monday, the day Bapi died, was the first time Anupam, Bhola and Dulal (the names they were referred to in private conversation) were refused entry into their Lalbazar headquarters.

The password that never failed before (“We are from Sulekha Building”) turned them away from the gates of Lalbazar today when they sought entry to see the chief minister’s last salute to Bapi around four in the afternoon.

“What are you going to see inside'” a central division inspector asked them. “As it is, there are so many people inside,” he added, before turning them away.

The Telegraph tailed them from the gates of the Calcutta Police headquarters to their canteen on the first floor of Sulekha Building to see how they responded to the sudden change in status.

There was some heartburn, some repentance (at their five colleagues’ doing) and some attempts to brazen out the fall from glory. The debate hovered as much around the refusal of the girl Bapi saved that night to come up as a witness as around their colleagues’ drunken and violent orgy.

Munching over the staple tiffin of toasted bread and ghoogni and washing it down with sugary tea, one group felt that it was the “duty” of the beneficiary to present herself before the police to help strengthen the case against the guilty.

The rejoinder, however, was equally prompt and showed how even law enforcers fear the lawless state of the city. “Would you have suggested the same thing had it been your wife or sister'” a voice piped in. An embarrassed silence followed.

It was broken soon enough by a chorus that sought to paint the New Year’s eve incident as an us-versus-them fight. “We constables get the worst of everything,” said one. “No flowers to see us off but a shovel to shove us off,” it added.

The “logic” found quite a few takers. Soon, there was a cacophony regretting the “inequality” of it all and demanding a new order of things.

Another spell of silence ensued but this one was briefer. “Things would not have come to such a pass had they not got themselves drunk,” a constable said of the rogue five.

Approving murmurs followed and the debate ended with the toast-and-ghoogni-and-tea but not before there was apparent agreement over two things: sympathy for Bapi and his family and touch of regret for their guilty colleagues.

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