The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flare-up follow-up to mishap
- Blaze and Bullets on Showpiece corridor

The city’s showpiece highway played host to a blaze and bullets on Sunday morning as an accident on the Rajarhat road to the airport triggered mob fury and police action.

By the time the flames were doused, four schoolchildren had been injured, two vehicles, including a police jeep, torched, several rounds of tear-gas shells fired, 15 people, including a few policemen, injured, 16 villagers arrested and the gateway to the city briefly turned into a battlefield.

Praveen Kumar, superintendent of police (North 24-Parganas), said trouble was sparked around 10.30 am when a Maruti car overtook a lorry from the left while speeding towards the airport, lost control, slammed into a group of schoolchildren headed off for a Sunday picnic, then veered off the arterial road and came to a stop in an adjoining field.

The injured children were admitted to a private healthcare unit, where the condition of three was stated to be critical late on Sunday.

“The mishap occurred opposite the Megacity police outpost,” said Kumar. “All children were from the Jatragachhi (West) village nearby, and were headed for a local waterbody for a picnic. Immediately after the accident, a violent mob gathered on the spot.”

The occupants of the car were dragged out and beaten up, till police intervened. The vehicle was set ablaze.

“Then, the mob moved to the opposite flank where a police jeep was parked in front of the outpost. They smashed open the fuel tank and set the jeep on fire,” said an officer.

With the four policemen at the outpost pitted against a mob of 50-plus, reinforcements had to be rushed in from Rajarhat police station, New Township outpost.

Rapid Action Force personnel then came in from the police lines in Doltala, near Madhyamgram.

The policemen were pelted with stones till they unleashed a lathicharge, opened fire in the air and resorted to teargasing. A posse of 100 policemen finally chased away the mob and then combed Jatragachhi (West) village for the troublemakers.

“We could identify some of those who were involved in the mob violence. We arrested 16 in the locality,” said Kumar.

Local residents alleged there was no traffic policing despite repeated requests, making it a high-risk zone for pedestrians and cyclists.

“It is a speedway and excessive traffic curbs cannot be allowed,” police countered.

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