By Madhuparna Das
Posted online: Indian Express, Tue Nov 08 2011, 02:20 hrs
Kolkata : In an unprecedented intervention, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stormed a Kolkata police station late last evening and forced the release of two members of her party arrested for rioting, arson and ransacking the police station about an hour earlier.
The police action came after the men — along with a mob of 300 — clashed with policemen from the Bhowanipore police station who had asked them not to burst high-decibel crackers late in the evening outside a cancer institute and a children’s hospital, and block both carriageways of S P Mukherjee Road, a major south Kolkata thoroughfare.
The men were part of a boisterous Jagaddhatri Puja immersion party. The puja is controlled and managed by one Jagannath Sau, a close associate of Baban Banerjee, one of Mamata Banerjee’s brothers.
Jagannath Sau has six cases — including extortion and cases under the Arms Act — against him, said the officer-in-charge of Bhowanipore police station. Sau was present at the spot — as was Baban Banerjee. Sau allegedly supplies building material to local Congress and Trinamool leaders and men engaged in real estate promotion.
Chief Minister Banerjee — who rushed to Bhowanipore police station from her Harish Chatterjee Street residence nearby — reportedly shouted at Kolkata Police Commissioner R K Pachnanda, Divisional Deputy Commissioner (South) D P Singh, and the head of the police station for stopping the immersion party. The chief minister also has charge of the state home department, and the police report directly to her.
Trouble began at around 9.30 pm. Local club Bhowanipore Players Association was taking its Jagaddhatri idol for immersion in a procession that was led by a loud band from the Sebak Sangha club, which is located at 14/1 Rani Sankari Lane, very close to where Banerjee lives.
A DJ was playing “masala Hindi numbers”, witnesses said; and both carriageways of S P Mukherjee Road were blocked as club members set off loud crackers right in front of Chittaranjan Cancer Institute.
A police request to club members not to disrupt traffic and disturb patients quickly degenerated into an argument, and the policemen were pelted with stones and bottles. Police retaliated with a lathicharge, and the mob entered the Bhowanipore police station, destroyed property and tried to set fire to several vehicles parked outside the police station. Private vehicles on the road were attacked as well.
The chief minister arrived on the scene at around 10.45 pm — apparently walking all the way after receiving news that some of her party members and supporters had been attacked by police in what is a Trinamool stronghold. She allegedly rebuked the Bhowanipore police station OC for having obstructed the Puja procession, and got the police to release two men who had been arrested for the rioting.
Tapas Saha and Sambhu Sau were allowed to go without cases being registered against them, sources said. No case has been registered against the procession organisers either. Officially police denied having taken anyone into custody.
Saha works full-time at Banerjee’s Kalighat party office. He is secretary of the Bhowanipore club, and has recently got a job with the Indian Railways. He was reportedly taken to hospital with injuries on his legs.
Sambhu Sau said, “Police arrested me and Tapas, threw us in the lock-up and began beating us. We are members of Trinamool Congress. The police refused to release us even after our leaders, Dr Nirmal Majhi, Dulal Sen, and Minister for Urban Development Firhad Hakim reached the police station. They relented only after Didi arrived. Didi is God to us. Didi arranged for my treatment and sent Tapas to hospital.”
Ratan Malakar, Trinamool councillor from Ward No. 73 where the club is located, said, “When our appeal to the police failed, Didi intervened. Her brother Baban Banerjee also reached the police station.”
Subhajeet Goon of Sebak Sangha club said, “After police told us to stop bursting crackers and playing loud music, we told them to take a look at our club banner and the address. Our club is located just beside Didi’s residence. But the officer started abusing. After that we could not control our rage.”
Goon added that Sebak Sangha members had gone to Banerjee’s home at around 10.30 pm to complain. “Didi did not waste time and rushed to the police station. Didi got our brothers released.”
D P Singh, DC (South), said, “We are yet to identify the people who ransacked the police station. We have started an inquiry. Some people were bursting loud crackers in front of the hospital and they were asked to stop doing that. In no time, they attacked our officers and the police station.”
An inquiry has been ordered into the alleged police failure, it was learnt from official sources.