| Flowers placed at the accident spot in memory of Shahabuddin and Azharuddin. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, April 10: Suspected police extortion led to the loss of two young lives in northeast Calcutta around 8.30 pm yesterday.
Mohammad Shahabuddin, 6, and his brother Mohammad Azharuddin, 4, were playing on the pavement off Canal West Road when they were mowed down by a truck trying to flee from the clutches of a policeman asking for a bribe.
Shahabuddin and Azharuddin had come to the city to visit their father, Shah Alam, and grandparents from Mallikpur in South 24-Parganas.
Sheikh Alimuddin, who was standing on the pavement when the accident occurred, said: 'The truck was taking the turn from Canal East Road to Canal West Road when a traffic police constable stepped up and motioned the driver to stop.'
Witnesses said the policeman walked to the driver's window and the two exchanged a few words. The policeman extended his hand in a gesture that is seen every day in the streets of Calcutta.
'The truck suddenly swerved past the policeman. Attempting to cut into the main road, the driver, who had not noticed the children playing, drove the truck on to the pavement, killing them instantly,' said Sheikh Anwar Hossain.
The boys' mother, Amujan Bibi, recalled how on hearing a commotion, she went to see what had happened and found the truck on the pavement. She spotted something stuck under the driver's cabin and saw blood on the pavement.
'People were pulling the bodies out, but I could not recognise them. Going closer, I recognised the clothes and realised that they were my sons,' she said through her wails.
Arun Kumar Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (traffic), admitted that 'a section of unscrupulous policemen extorts bribes from truck drivers', but said no complaint had been received. 'If we receive a complaint, we will definitely take action,' he said.
He added that there were no restrictions on the movement of heavy vehicles and goods carriers on that road.
The statement seemed to suggest since there was no restriction, a policeman would have no excuse to seek a bribe. While the logic is convincing enough, sights of policemen taking bribes even when free movement is allowed is not uncommon. At night, that is the common sight.
Police sources said constable Santosh Pramanik was on duty on that stretch last night, but added that any other policeman posted in the vicinity might also have come over to make a quick buck.
Shanti Prasad Roy, officer-in-charge of Narkeldanga police station, refused to comment.
'Traffic police personnel deployed here regularly extort money from truck drivers,' said Sheikh Shahjahan, Alam's neighbour.
Alam, a cycle-van puller, lives in Calcutta with his parents Noorjahan Begum and Abdul Sakur. His wife and children stay in the family's ancestral home because there is not enough space for everyone in the small room in the slums behind Narkeldanga police station.
The pavement where the boys were killed is about 100 metres away. Amujan had brought the children, the sons and two daughters, to see their father on Friday.
'On Saturday, we were supposed to have dinner together and then they would take a night train back. My wife was cooking dinner when the accident happened,' Alam said.
This is not the first time an accident has taken place in the area. Shahjahan said that, about a month ago, a youth's arm was crushed under a truck and had to be amputated.