| The charred remains of the bus set on fire by residents of Jatiakhali after the accident. A Telegraph picture
Jatiakhali (Jalpaiguri), July 21: A ten-year-old girl was crushed to death under the speeding wheels of a state bus at Jatiakhali, 15 km from Siliguri.
The incident took place around 12.30 pm, when the state bus (WB-63-1791), on its way from Mathabhanga, ran over Manju Roy, a Class V student of Fulbari High School. Manju was standing on State Highway 12A on the opposite side of the school.
She was immediately rushed to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in a seriously injured condition. She died later in the evening.
Like on other days, Manju had ventured outside her school premises during the interval (12.10 to 1.10 pm) for refreshments from a nearby shop. According to eyewitnesses, the bus, which was moving at a high speed, came from the direction of Jalpaiguri, hit Manju and tried to speed off.
The driver, Dulal Mullick, who was arrested later, accepted that the vehicle was moving at high speed. 'I applied brakes but failed to stop the vehicle, and could not save the girl,' he said.
Irate students and residents of Jatiakhali and Fulbari, however, stopped the bus and set fire to its front tyres. By this time, a few policemen turned up and tried to prevent the mob, but they rained stones on the police and set fire to the rear tyres as well.
Soon, a huge police force arrived on the spot along with two fire engines. 'None of them, however, were allowed near the bus, which was in flames,' said a local resident, Abul Hussain.
Throughout this period, the requests of the police fell on deaf ears and the latter reportedly resorted to firing two rounds to bring the situation under control. The police then allegedly entered the nearby houses beating up the people. Even women were not spared. The policemen allegedly also seized the bicycles of students.
'We did not have an option. We had to fire in the air and then resort to a lathicharge. Otherwise, it would not have been possible to stop them. Our repeated pleas to restore order were ignored,' said Sitaram Sinha, the circle inspector of the NJP Sadar police station.
The headmaster of the school, Rafiqul Rahman, expressed his annoyance at the role of the police. 'They unnecessarily arrested a few of our students and took away their cycles.'
Similar was the sentiment of the Congress-run panchayat samiti (Rajganj Block) member Amija Khatun. She vehemently criticised the police for ransacking houses and beating up innocent people including women.
Marjina Khatun, one of those who had been brutally beaten up by policemen, lay wailing in her house. She said, 'They came and beat me up with lathis for no fault of mine. I was not even present at the place where the incident occurred.'
The headmaster later said the road had always been accident-prone area. 'Earlier we had appealed to the PWD to construct a speed-breaker near the school, but to no avail. There was a traffic point in the Jatiakhali More, which was also withdrawn later,' he added.
Incidentally, only two days ago, five-year-old Babu Haq was similarly hit by a rushing bus on Burdwan road in Siliguri. Babu, who had come to spend a vacation here with his family, will probably never be able to use his right hand again.