KOLKATA: Residents of a premium residential complex in the heart of south Kolkata watched terror stricken from their balconies and windows as a mob of over 150 men and women vandalized property and smashed at least 76 odd cars without any police intervention for at least an hour on Sunday morning.
The vandalism followed the accidental death of a 22-year-old youth whose scooter was hit by a Mercedes E 250 on the Hazra road early on Sunday and the youth’s friends and family members suspected that that the car belonged to someone from the complex – Fort Oasis on Panditiya Road.
The vandals, armed with iron rods, bricks, flower tubs and hockey sticks smashed windshields and glasses of at least 76 cars — that included the likes of Mercedes Benz C220, BMW X1, Audi A4, Honda City and Skoda Laura — parked inside the complex . The men, mostly residents of the adjacent Panditiya road slum where the boy used to live, had got hold of a maintenance fee payment receipt of the complex, while damaging the Mercedes E 250 that had hit the youth and was deserted by its occupants on Hazra Road that had made them believe that the car belonged to someone from that complex. Police investigation later proved that the car did not belong to anyone from that property.
Separate complaints were lodged by the family members of deceased youth — Abhijit Pandey, a third year Bcom student at Shyamaprasad College and the residents of the complex against the vandalism but none were arrested in any of the two cases till late on Sunday.
Police said, Pandey and two of his friends Mithilesh Rai and Ram Bharat Yadav, were riding a scooter – all without helmets – when the car hit them in front of Paramount Nursing Home on Hazra Road around 2.30am. Pandey was allegedly driving the scooter while the two others were riding pillion. Pandey was declared dead on arrival at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan while Yadav and Roy were referred to SSKM Hospital with facial injuries and multiple fractures. Yadav, who has fractures on his hands and legs told police that the car stopped a little ahead of them after the accident and three of its occupants came out and fled. At least two of them were women, he said in his statement, police said.
“After the impact, the car’s airbags had come out and the vehicle got locked automatically as the car’s preinstalled safety system,” said an officer of Tollygunge police station, who had to bring a break down van to toe the car to the police station. Police said the car was registered with a company – Little Start Tie-up Pvt Ltd – which has its office at AJC Bose Road and Sudarshashan Kumar Maheshwari and Varun Maheshwari as its directors.
The accident had taken place around 2.30am and the vandalism at the complex happened around 6 hours later. “The guards had opened the gate to allow one of the cars in and the mob forced their entry behind it. They first asked the guard about the car and its owners and when they could not tell them, they entered the complex. The guards made the wait and called the security officer, who came down and tried to calm them down but they did not listen and began the vandalism,” said Vivek Agarwal, one of the residents of the building who had made a video of the vandalism on his cellphone.
The vandalism began with the reception desk of tower II where the security officer met the men. They first toppled the wooden reception desk and all the car keys and registers got scattered. Then they broke the glass walls of the reception area and then the men picked up iron rods from the adjacent construction site and began damaging one car after another.
“I came here for my birthday just two days ago from Dubai. My parents and rest of the family live here. After what happened today morning, my wife and mother are scared. Even I am scared for their security as they would be living here as I would fly back to my workplace tomorrow,” said Ravi Banthia, who owns a Honda Jazz. It had hits windshields smashed, window panes broken and headlights damaged.
“They could have even come up to our homes. I locked all the doors and put a lock on the collapsible gates outside the doors as well,” said another resident.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s member-mayoral-in-council parks, Debasis Kumar‘s black Mahindra Scorpio was also not spared. “I have a flat here where my daughter stays. I come here every Saturday night. What has happened is extremely scary. Police should investigate and find out the vandals,” said Kumar.
The rampage continued for one hour, mostly on the cars that were parked in the open outside Tower I of the complex. The block A of the complex where the rampage took place has two towers, each comprising of 26 floors and a total of around 200 flats.
As the rampage continued several residents allegedly called up the local police station as well as the police control room when two officers on a bike came to the complex. “But the men pushed the policemen away from the gates. They did not fight back and left,” said the resident adding that five of their guards were beaten up when they tried to stop the men from damaging the car.
Police arrived only around 9am, more than an hour into the vandalism. The men armed with iron rods and sticks allegedly went out of the complex in front of them as they let all of them go without arresting anyone.
“We had not received any complaint at that time. We were the ones who chased them out and later arrested two persons,” said an officer of Lake Police station.