Chandan Sau, a teenaged fruitseller on Camac Street, was slapped and punched by a policeman on Tuesday afternoon. His crime' Asking subedar Harendra Nath Panchal to pay Rs 2 for a banana he had taken from him.
Panchal then found himself at the receiving end, as the lunchtime office crowd collared him, dragged him out of the police picket and thrashed him.
As the word of a cop beating up a banana seller spread, the crowd swelled and a large police contingent had to be rushed in to rescue the subedar and restore order. A part of Camac Street was shut to traffic for over 40 minutes.
“The policeman came to me and demanded a banana. He took the fruit and walked away. I followed him to the police picket nearby and asked for Rs 2, but he refused to pay, claiming he had already paid,” recounted 18-year-old Chandan, a Taltala resident.
When the youngster persisted, Panchal, in his 50s, lunged at him. “He first slapped me, then kicked me in the stomach and was about to kick me in my face when I ran away,” said Chandan.
Nived Kansal, a 22-year-old witness to the assault, said: “I was about to enter British Council when I saw a cop beating up a fruit vendor. He kept slapping the boy till he somehow managed to wriggle free and run away, crying. We were stunned to see such behaviour from a policeman.”
The subedar of the Fourth Battalion of Calcutta police, meanwhile, maintained that he had paid Rs 5 for the banana to Chandan. “He had even returned the change to me.... I was furious when the boy said I hadn’t paid. Why should I not pay Rs 2'” he demanded.
Crowd fury erupted when Chandan returned to his makeshift fruit stall in tears and narrated his tale to customers.
As word got around, a crowd gathered around the police picket. A few angry men then dragged Panchal out by the collar. As the crowd swelled, blows began to rain on the cornered cop.
Sensing trouble, Panchal’s colleague at the picket called up Shakespeare Sarani police station. By then, the mob had given Panchal a hiding.
With matters spiralling out of control, cops from Shakespeare Sarani police station rushed in to rescue their colleague from the irate crowd. Senior police officers, led by the deputy commissioner (south), Ajoy Kumar, also stepped in.
“Panchal was in charge of a police picket outside British Council on Camac Street. He claims to have paid the money for the banana he took from the boy. We have heard both the accused and the victim and a departmental inquiry has been initiated,” said Hiren Chandra Das, officer-in-charge of Shakespeare Sarani police station.
Panchal joined the Fourth Battalion of Calcutta police a few years ago and was promoted to subedar from havildar two years back,
Chandan runs the fruit stall that once belonged to his late father Gobindo Sau. He lives with his uncles off SN Banerjee Road and for the past year, has been manning the fruit stall on Camac Street.