The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cops cool, residents resigned to puja raj

Tall claim: Rogue puja committees extorting money in the name of subscription will be blacklisted and their celebrations stopped.

Ground reality: Puja chanda remains a cause for concern, even alarm, in several areas. Ask Anil Das of Barrackpore or P.P. Thomas of Ekbalpore or Eklak Ahmed and Fazaluddin of CIT Road.

Cop excuse: Don’t know (the miscreants cannot be traced, is the official line). Can’t act (the complaints are being levelled against CPM-backed toughs, is the off-the-record admission).

With not a single person being arrested following Thursday’s puja-related fracas on Christopher Road, the police brass blamed it on the “situation” that did not allow them to do their duty, a seeming carry-forward from their failure to rein in rally raj.

Officers, on condition of anonymity, said those named in the first information report (FIR) lodged by Thursday’s victims — one of whom had his cheek slashed by razor-wielding members of Paribartan club when he went to fetch milk from a nearby depot — were “close to” a prominent CPM minister. So, they could not be touched.

The official cop line, of course, was that the goons had not been spotted, but, as Anuj Sharma, deputy commissioner (eastern suburban division), said: “We will surely arrest them.”

Residents of the area said on Friday, after seeing the accused roaming freely in the neighbourhood, that they had little faith in police protestations.

“We face problems from this club every year,” said the owner of a leather-goods outlet. “But, by now, we know that the police will do nothing.”

Geological Survey of India official Anil Das of Barrackpore will agree. Last year, members of Kalianibas Sarbajanin Durga Puja led a “social boycott” of his family after being denied a hefty subscription. No action was taken against the organisers, as “there was no directive from the government regarding this,” said Titagarh police station.

Thomas, a resident of Bhukailash Road in Ekbalpore, fell victim to the iron fist of the Pujas after members of the Young Boys’ Society beat him up last fortnight for alerting the Ekbalpore police about powerlines in his building being tapped by the club.

Deputy commissioner (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh confirmed that all pujas against which complaints had been lodged were being allowed to go ahead with their festivities. But, police would stop them next year, he promised.

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