An RPF constable was stoned to death and two policemen were injured as hundreds of hawkers attacked the Railway Police Force during an eviction drive at Malda town railway station. The incident took place after an RPF team asked a hawker not to sell his items at the station entrance. But when the hawker protested, the personnel beat him up, the police said.
The Railway Protection Force (RPF) jawan Samarendra Samanta (35) was allegedly beaten to death while five of his colleagues were injured in the clash between the hawkers and the RPF on Monday. The RPF jawans fired at least 13 rounds in the air to restore normalcy. No hawker was, however, injured in the incident. Later, the ASP of Malda, Abhisekh Modi rushed to the spot with a huge contingent of police to help the GRP and RPF control the situation.
At around 9am, one of the hawkers, Jhoton Das started selling bread and vegetables to passengers of Howrah-bound Shatabdi Express train near platform 3 of Malda town station. The RPF jawans found Jhoton violating the orders by RPF that forbids selling food items on the station.
The RPF jawans caught Jhoton and allegedly hit the butt of their Insas rifle on his head, fracturing his skull. He was rushed to Malda Medical College and Hospital.
The incident sparked tension in the area. Hundreds of hawkers started gathering near Malda town station. Since the injured hawker is a resident of local Kulodwip Mishra Colony, people from the colony also gathered in the premises.
Subal Ghosh, the secretary of the hawkers’ union, Bharatiya Majdur Sangha, said, “For the last few months, the RPF jawans are harassing the hawkers at Malda town station unnecessarily. They fractured the skull of a hawker on Monday. When other hawkers went to the RPF camp office to protest against this incident and lodge a complaint, the RPF misbehaved with the hawkers and drove everyone away after a mild lathi-charge.”
The situation soon went out of control. When the hawkers went to attack the RPF camp office, the jawans started pelting stones in self-defence. When they failed to bring the situation under control, the RPF jawans fired at least 13 rounds in the air. The hawkers too, beat up some RPF jawans brutally during the clash in which Samanta was killed and at least five jawans were injured. However, the hawkers’ union claimed no one from their union is associated with the death of the RPF personnel.
The RPF commandant of Malda division, SS Tiwari said, “No hawker was beaten up by the RPF jawans. Rather, the hawkers created trouble inside the platform, demanding they be allowed to sell food and other items. They vandalised IRCTC’s food stall. When the RPF jawans tried to resist them, 300-odd persons attacked them with lathis and bricks.”
He added that when the RPF jawans took shelter inside the camp, the hawkers barged in too. Samanta was taken to the front of the camp office where he was beaten to death. There were only 7-8 jawans inside the camp then. So it was impossible for them to control the mob and they had to fire a few rounds to disperse the hawkers.
DRM of Malda, Rajesh Argal said, “The hawkers attacked and killed an RPF jawan. The chief secretary, Malda DM and the SP have been informed about the incident. Legal action will be taken against all the offenders.”