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In focus: Guns and encroachers

Weapon-flashing bares two key problems

Monalisa Chaudhuri | Published 24.04.22, 04:07 AM
Representational image

Representational image

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An incident in Behala’s Parnasree where a 66-year-old man was seen aiming a gun at a hawker who was occupying a pavement outside his factory’s wall and allegedly refusing to vacate that place highlights the two biggest problems in the city now — arms and encroachment.

The elderly man had allegedly threatened the hawker with his licenced gun to vacate the place. Both — the elderly man and the hawker — have lodged police complaints against each other prompting the cops to start two separate cases.


The police have identified the man as Debasish Chakraborty. On Friday, the police had said he was 74. On Saturday, they clarified that he was 66. Chakraborty told The Telegraph later he was 66.

Many in the police admitted that possession and misuse of arms has become a problem in the city. A video that has emerged showing the man holding a gun in an unsteady hand highlights several problems, police officers working on and outside the case said.

“Easy availability of guns is a big problem. In this case the elderly person had a valid licence but the lack of outrage of the people in the neighbourhood where the man flaunted the gun in public view speaks volumes,” said an officer.

In the video, as the elderly man is seen aiming the gun at the hawker, at least two men continue to video record the incident and a third, who is apparently with the elderly man, holds a cricket bat.

The alleged problem that forced the gun out is also something serious if true.

On Saturday, Chakraborty said he felt “helpless” after having failed to reclaim the footpath that led to his factory.

“This boy had come pleading to give him some place on the footpath adjoining my factory wall. On humanitarian grounds I agreed. It has been more than seven months since then,” Chakraborty alleged.

He also alleged that he had “settled” the matter with the hawker — Bittu Das — and even paid Rs 7,500 for labourers to remove the stall but alleged intervention from a local political leader disrupted the agreement.

Chakraborty said: “I lost my calm when the stall was not removed....”

Das could not be located for a comment on Saturday.

Chakraborty had obtained the gun licence in 2004. “I had 15 bullets, three of which I had fired to practice shooting. I still have 12 bullets but never felt the need to use them,” he said.

Several police officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said a bigger problem for them was the proliferation of unlicenced guns.

The Telegraph had earlier reported that Kolkata alone has witnessed 12 incidents involving guns in the past nine months.

This gun culture is new to Kolkata. The encroachment problem is not.

Kolkata’s pavements have been stolen away from pedestrians many years ago. What was a problem in New Market, Hatibagan, Gariahat and some other shopping districts, has now spread across Behala, Kasba, Dum Dum and Garia.

In this case, the politician and the police have a happy understanding with the traders. Court orders, devastating fires, grumbling citizens: nothing has been able to change that equation.

“Hawkers block our shop’s gates... Yet you cannot do anything to remove them.,” said a store owner in Gariahat.

The hawkers allegedly pay a monthly subscription to the union. The union allegedly offers them protection from the police.

Last updated on 24.04.22, 04:07 AM

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