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Accident

Lorry mows down child, fury erupts in which several vehicles torched

Class II student was walking across DH Road, holding father’s hand, when they were hit

Monalisa Chaudhuri, Debraj Mitra | Published 05.08.23, 05:56 AM
(Clockwise) A police vehicle set ablaze after the fatal accident at Behala Chowrasta; The office of the Diamond Harbour traffic guard after it was vandalised by protestors;

(Clockwise) A police vehicle set ablaze after the fatal accident at Behala Chowrasta; The office of the Diamond Harbour traffic guard after it was vandalised by protestors;

Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

A Class II student was crushed under the wheels of a lorry while he was walking across the road holding his father’s hand at Behala Chowrasta around 6.30am on Friday, barely a few metres from his school.

Souraneel Sarkar

Souraneel Sarkar

Souraneel Sarkar’s head was smashed. Father Saroj Kumar Sarkar, who suffered serious injuries, is being treated at SSKM Hospital.

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Mayhem followed, in which several vehicles were torched, the Diamond Harbour traffic guard’s office was ransacked and set ablaze and traffic on the arterial Diamond Harbour Road was choked for at least four hours.

Residents of the area, many of them parents of schoolchildren, said police acted callously along a corridor dotted with schools. That the police failed to intercept the lorry immediately after the tragedy fanned the anger.

The vehicle was finally intercepted in Howrah’s Santragachhi by officers of Howrah City Police around 9am, around two-and-a-half hours after the accident.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has sought a detailed report on the cause of the accident from chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi. Kolkata police commissioner Vineet Goyal visited the spot and said a thorough investigation would be conducted and measures taken to prevent such tragedies.

A 1.5km-stretch around Behala Chowrasta turned into a virtual battlefield. The police retaliated with tear gas.

One woman, who had taken shelter inside a school compound when tear gas shells were being lobbed, had suffered facial injuries. Several students and guardians who took shelter in the school compound complained of irritation in eyes because of the gas.

The police said at least eight of their personnel were injured by bricks and stones hurled at them. One of them is in hospital, an officer at police headquarters in Lalbazar said.

Joint commissioner (crime), Kolkata police, Sankha Shubhra Chakrabarty, said 11 persons have been arrested in connection with the violence.

The crowd did not allow the police to remove Souraneel’s body for around one-and-a-half hours till a large police contingent reached the spot and forced them back.

Eight-year-old Souraneel, a Class II student at Barisha Uchcha Balika Vidyamandir (primary), lived with his parents at their Thakurpupur home.

The father and the son got off an autorickshaw in front of the school, on Diamond Harbour Road, around 6.30am. They were hit by a lorry on the Taratala-bound flank of the artery, while they were walking across the road on their way to the school compound.

The police said CCTV footage showed the signal for vehicles was red when the two got off the autorickshaw. But the signal turned green when they were crossing the road and the lorry started moving. Guardians and pedestrians complained that the accident could have been averted had there been cops in front of the school.

“Hundreds of children come to the school every day but there is no police arrangement in front of the school compound,” complained headmaster Arjun Roy. “We have told them (the police) so many times to make an arrangement in front of our school.”

A guardian accused the police of being biased towards private schools. “Why is there no police arrangement outside this school? Because it is a government school? Look at the police presence in front of private schools. You will see the difference,” he said.

“The driver of the lorry, Joydeb Dutta, 51, and his help, Sujit Khan, 27, have been arrested,” said an officer

Three police cases have been registered: two at Thakurpukur police station and one at Behala.

“The first case, registered at Thakurpukur police station, is against the lorry driver. The other two, one each at Thakurpukur and Behala police station, are for arson, rioting and attack on police personnel,” said a senior officer at Lalbazar.

The owner of the lorry, Guffur Khan, told The Telegraph he received a call from the driver that the Howrah police had asked him to park his vehicle and step aside.

Many who travel through the stretch where the accident happened were caught in snarls in the adjoining James Long Sarani. Sourav Dutta Gupta, a resident of Joka who works at a multinational company in New Town, said he was late in office by 90 minutes because of the blockade.

“The app-based bus that I book every day usually picks me up from Joka around 8.55am. But I could not book it today for at least 25 minutes. There wasn’t any vehicle available. Finally, I managed to book a bus and boarded it around 9.30am,” said Dutta Gupta.

Jaywalking

On Friday evening, drop gates were installed at Behala Chowrasta to prevent people from walking across the road when the signal for vehicles is green.

Last updated on 05.08.23, 05:57 AM
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