A central force jawan with a polycarbonate lathi on election day. Picture by Amit Datta
The humble lathi that is synonymous with policing appeared in a new avatar this election. While wood or cane lathis have been in use in the police force for a very long time, lathis made of polycarbonate made an appearance in the hands of the central forces, as they controlled crowds and dispersed rowdy elements from near polling booths.
According to a central force jawan, who wielded a polycarbonate lathi to good effect in New Town to chase away gathered syndicate toughs, the newer ones are much easier to swing.
“They are not only lightweight but they also come with rubberised handgrips that helps grasp it properly,” he explained.
These lathis, added another jawan, have an enforced end cap that gives the lathi greater strength and stings twice as hard as a traditional cane when hit.
The result: Instant dispersal of crowds and unruly elements.
Cops from the Bidhannagar police commissionerate, however, continued to wield the traditional lathis. According to them, even the old ones in experienced and well-trained hands were “very effective”.
Although a bit heavier than the polycarbonate ones, lathis made of wood and cane are more user friendly, they claimed.
The police, throughout the polling day, had kept several criminals under watch.
Whenever trouble broke out, the swings of lathis in the hands of a disciplined force full of intent made vote thieves and goons scoot.
“The lathis hurt. I can vouch for that. I received a kick and a blow or two when I tried to make for a polling booth with some genuine voters,” said a Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation councillor from Salt Lake who did not want to be named, still smarting from the pain.
According to sources, a councillor of the South Dum Dum Municipality and a mayor-in-council member of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation were also at the receiving end of the lathi.
“We were going towards a booth with Dada (the mayoral council member) when suddenly two jeeps full of central forces stopped in front of us. Before we could understand what was happening, they charged at us. In the melee, Dada fell down and received blows from the lathi. He could not get up for two days after the polls,” said a Trinamul party worker, active in the Rajarhat New Town area.