Army wages war on cops - Raid frees officers held for party brawl

Read more below

By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 1.01.07
Battle fatigues in park street station

Calcutta, Jan. 1: Soldiers in uniform, led by a lieutenant colonel, rampaged through Park Street police station last night and freed two army officers arrested on the charge of misbehaving with women at a New Year’s Eve party, police said today.

The soldiers allegedly forced the police to open the lock-up at gunpoint, beat up all the 11 policemen and vandalised the building. Nine other detainees slipped away in the confusion.

The police, who said one of their injured was in hospital, have registered two cases. “We have told the army to hand the accused over. We may move court for arrest warrants,” said special inspector-general (SIG) Kuldiep Singh.

Army officers visited the police station twice. “A three-member inquiry committee is looking into it. Nothing more can be said now,” said Colonel M.C. Baruah, head of the probe team.

The two officers at the centre of the storm, Major Chandra Pratap Singh and Captain Mahesh, belong to the 3rd Madras Regiment, stationed in Salt Lake. The unit had returned from a high-stress tenure, manning Siachen and then battling militants in Kashmir, just six months ago.

Invited to a party at a Park Street hotel, Major Singh had reason to feel celebratory. He was recently promoted and was attending a year-end bash at a peace posting after several hardship tenures.

Around 11.30 pm, a woman guest is believed to have told hotel security that Singh was misbehaving with her.

“I requested him not to disturb the other guests,” said security guard Gopi Jha. “But he attacked me. When I returned with my colleague Dinesh Roy, he beat him up, too.”

Another version says the major was taken to a room and roughed up by the bouncers before the police were called. The hotel said in its complaint it had “tried to restrain” the officer. Captain Mahesh had slipped out but was arrested as he crossed Park Street.

“At the police station, they were asked to sit on a bench. But they kept threatening the police and misbehaved with a woman who had come to lodge a missing person case. We had to put them behind bars,” the SIG said.

The army raid was led by Lt Colonel Pratap Singh, an officer who sports the army chief’s citation on his breast pocket and has two bars to show on his medal-ribbons. He was in army fatigues and was accompanied by a Major Kavi in plain clothes, the SIG said.

About 20 soldiers arrived in three vehicles around 12.45 am. They beat up the policemen, smashed glass panes, overturned furniture and ransacked several rooms, deputy commissioner (south) Ajay Kumar alleged. “An officer, Bimal Khatua, hit with a rifle butt, needed six stitches.”

Two vehicles left with the arrested officers and most of the troops, but Lt Col Singh stayed back with some soldiers to meet the officer-in-charge.

Police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee said: “I shall see this through to the end.”

The defence ministry has asked the army to prepare a report after an angry Bengal government drew the Centre’s attention. “I have already issued instructions,” defence minister A.K. Antony told The Telegraph from Kerala. Army headquarters has asked Eastern Command to conduct a “staff court of inquiry”.