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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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War over noise bar

Serampore, Oct. 13: A neighbourhood here in Hooghly turned into a battlefield last night after police asked Puja organisers to turn off blaring loudspeakers when a local crooner was belting out Bollywood chartbusters.

The bar on loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am was being flouted brazenly during the programme in a pandal at Tarapukur, about 40 km from Calcutta.

A team led by the inspector-in-charge of the Serampore police station, Mihir Guha, went there past 10.30 pm and told the organisers to disconnect the loudspeakers.

When the members of the Tarapukur 28 Pally Durga Puja Committee refused to do so, Guha climbed onto the stage, took away the microphone from a performer and seized the sound boxes.

Police said the members and residents retaliated by hurling brickbats. “Two of our colleagues were injured in the brick-batting. Reinforcements had to be sent from Rishra, Dankuni and Bhadreswar to bring the situation under control,” subdivisional police officer Bharat Lal Meena said.

The large force that stepped in wielded batons and chased the mob away. Meena said: “About 35 people were arrested.” Rapid Action Force (RAF) jawans were posted to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.

Nearly a thousand residents gheraoed the police station around 9 am protesting against alleged police atrocities and demanding the release of those arrested.

When the police took those held last night to the local court, the residents blocked Serampore station and GT Road. Tension ran high in the town and shops remained shut through the day.

The organisers said that the audience reacted angrily when the officer took the microphone away from the performer. “We would have stopped our programme if the police had asked us to do so,” said Balaram Nag, the joint secretary of the committee.

Local political leaders supported the police’s bid to prevent pollution but condemned their “highhandedness”.

Both district Congress president Jyoti Chowdhury and CPM district secretariat member Sunil Sarkar said the “organisers violated the law and deserved strong punishment”. But, they added, the police should have exercised restraint and been “polite” with the Puja organisers.

Local Trinamul MLA Ratna Nag echoed them.

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