The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BSF fires on students in slap chase

Samshergunj (Murshidabad), Jan. 18: Students went on the rampage in the sleepy town of Nimtita near here this morning when a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan shot at a boy on being chased by incensed schoolboys for slapping one of them.

The incident triggered a wave of violence with over 2,500 school and college students from nearby Suti and Aurangabad torching a house, a shop and the block development officer’s car. They also held up rail and road traffic for over four hours this afternoon.

It started at 10.40 am when Umit Singh, a BSF jawan belonging to the intelligence wing, slapped a Class VII student of Nimtita High School for colliding with him on his bicycle on the way to school. Terrified, Wasim Akram left his bicycle behind and ran to school, where he fell unconscious.

“After we revived him, he told us that he had been slapped by a BSF man,” said headmaster Dinabandhu Ghosh. He and five colleagues left for the force’s border outpost to lodge a complaint.

In the meantime, senior students found out that Singh was in an STD booth close to the school, and soon about 400 angry students surrounded it. Owner Manik Saha hurriedly downed shutters and helped the jawan escape through the back door. When the students chased him, the jawan turned around and fired from his revolver.

The bullet hit Siddhartha Sinha of Class X on the chest and, in the melee that erupted at the sound of gunfire, another student, Swarup Das, was injured. Swarup has been taken to Behrampore for treatment, while the other two are in Jangipur sub-divisional hospital.

Singh took shelter in Saha’s house from where he was “rescued” by BSF jawans who rushed from the nearby outpost. He was arrested late in the evening.

As news spread, a large number of students gathered from Suti and Aurangabad in front of Saha’s house around 11.30 am. An hour later, matters went out of control and the mob torched Saha’s phone booth and house, said Amar Saha, a neighbour and witness to the violence. The phone booth owner had managed to flee the scene with his family.

Most of the students then went to the school and set on fire the car of Suti II block development officer Bidyut Sadhu, who had arrived on hearing about the trouble.

The students then marched three kilometres to National Highway 34 and set up a roadblock which continued till 4.30 pm. Another group gathered at Nimtita station and prevented the Bhagalpur-Azimgunj passenger train from leaving.

Road and rail traffic was restored after Murshidabad police superintendent Virendra arrived from Behrampore with a large police force. About 20 students were arrested.

Virendra said a criminal case would be filed against the BSF jawan.

S.N. Kesswan, an officer of the BSF’s 62 battalion, said he could not comment on the incident. “The jawan belongs to our intelligence wing and we rescued him as his life was in danger,” he said.

Political parties, including the CPM, the Congress and the SUCI, have called a 12-hour bandh in the Dhuliyan and Auranganbad areas on Monday to protest against the “BSF’s highhandedness”.

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