A mob set ablaze two police motorbikes and assaulted a traffic constable after a pedestrian was run over by a speeding mini-truck at Kidderpore on Wednesday.
Around 11.45am, Mohammed Shaheed, an employee of the closed Hooghly Jute Mill, was crossing the Circular Garden Reach Road when a Tata 407 truck that was trying to overtake a bus from the wrong side crushed him under its wheels and fled.
Shaheed died on the spot. The accident took place near gate number 4 of Kidderpore Dock, around 2km from Fancy Market.
Residents alleged that traffic in the area was unruly. Enough traffic cops are deployed there but they are usually too busy collecting bribes from goods vehicles to do their job, they said.
“The traffic police officers take money from drivers of goods vehicles even if others can see them do so. As a result, speeding vehicles have a free run. We do not feel safe walking on the road,” said resident Gautam Sau.
The simmering anger of the residents boiled over when they found out that the only cop at the crossing had been talking on his mobile phone at a nearby tea stall instead of controlling traffic.
Venkat Rao, who is Shaheed’s neighbour at the jute mill colony, about 200 metres from the accident spot, had crossed the road seconds before the accident. He said he had spotted the traffic constable talking on his mobile phone. “I noticed that traffic was not stopping and that several people had assembled on either flank of the road waiting for a chance to cross,” he said. “The constable could not even take down the registration number of the vehicle that hit Shaheed.”
Residents started assembling around Shaheed’s body. “Suddenly, we saw some cops arrive and try to move the body from the middle of the road by dragging it. Some of them even tried to push the body with their feet,” said Sau. It was after this, he alleged, that the mob attacked the cops, who ran away from the scene leaving their bikes behind. The crowd set the bikes ablaze.
The traffic constable who was allegedly talking on his phone at the time of the accident was slapped, said witnesses.
The police resorted to a lathicharge, deployed the Rapid Action Force and burst teargas shells to control the mob. For an hour, the accident site saw a pitched battle between the mob and the cops.
An officer of West Port police station denied that the police had shown any “disrespect” to the body. “Our men were just trying to remove the body as traffic movement on the road had come to a complete halt. Nobody showed any disrespect,” he said.
The police picked up eight people. “We have detained them. If any of them is found guilty of fomenting unrest after the accident, we will arrest him. The others will be allowed to leave,” said the officer.
The local people alleged that all those who were picked up were innocent.