The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bloodshed after family deaths spark road riot

Durgapur, Sept. 4: A father and his two children on their way to school were run over by a speeding truck this morning, fuelling mob rage that ended with three more deaths in police firing.

Forty-year-old Arjun Singh and his two children, eight-year-old Rekha and 10-year-old Raja, died instantly when the truck hit them around 6 am on National Highway 2. Singh was taking his children to Netaji Hindi School.

A group of youths sitting at a tea stall at the busy Bhiringi More saw the accident and took down the number of the killer vehicle, headed towards Ilambazar in Birbhum. They rushed to call the police.

But policemen from the Faridpur outpost, less than half-a-kilometre from the accident site in Benachiti, Durgapur’s main market, took half-an-hour to arrive. Their anger at the truck driver now directed at the slack policemen, residents blocked the road and refused to hand over the bodies. The police team lathicharged the crowd, provoking it further. The residents hurled stones and brickbats and severely beat up the officer-in-charge of the Faridpur outpost, Jagannath Mondal. They also snatched a rifle from a policeman.

A panicky Mondal ran to a transport agency’s office but the mob chased him there and set the building on fire. The police officer escaped through the backdoor, but was caught again. Later, some Trinamul Congress workers rescued him and offered him shelter in the party office.

Circle inspector Ashit Chakraborty was hit on the head by bricks. The mob ransacked offices of some travel agencies and PCOs on either side of the highway.

Outnumbered by the residents, the policemen fled. Hundreds of vehicles stood still as the mob blocked the road for four hours before a huge contingent of the police and the Rapid Action Force arrived from Asansol and the Durgapur police lines. They burst 10 teargas shells before opening fire on the mob.

Police said they fired 32 rounds. Dashu Porel, a middle-aged fish-seller who had come from Bud Bud to Benachiti market, was struck by a bullet in the head and died immediately. An unidentified youth, injured in the firing, died in hospital. Naushad Ahmad, 20, also injured in the firing, died at night. Several others are reported to be fighting for their lives.

Eleven policemen, including four officers, were injured. A police vehicle, a private car and two two-wheelers were set on fire. The mob also attacked fire brigade personnel and damaged a fire engine. They chased some mediapersons. The rifle, snatched by the mob, was later recovered.

Forty people were arrested till evening for the violence. The Trinamul has called a 12-hour Durgapur bandh tomorrow “to protest police atrocities”.

Gautam Chakraborty, IG (western range), said some “anti-socials” had fuelled the violence and provoked locals to attack policemen. “The incidents indicate there was some specific motive to disturb the peaceful atmosphere here,” he said.

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