Youth protesting harassment of schoolgirls shot at

Calcutta, Feb. 9: A young man was shot at in a residential pocket of north Calcutta this afternoon when he tried to resist a group of youths teasing his teenaged neighbours, a reminder of how fearless even petty criminals have become in this city.

The 2pm firing took place barely 700 metres from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) on a road leading to two colleges and two schools.

Mangal Sardar, 21, a resident of Indira Nagar, was cycling down the road with three other friends when he saw two youths teasing the two Class X students on their way back from school.

Witnesses said that when Mangal asked the youths what they were up to, one of them whipped out a country-made pistol tucked under his shirt. Mangal's friends advised him to run away.

"Mangal refused to budge and the youth with the gun fired. The bullet hit Mangal's right shoulder and he fell," said D.K. Roy, a doctor who lives nearby.

There were several others on the road but the sight of the gun froze them.

The shooting happened right in front of the main entrance of the Central Tool Room and Training Centre, whose guards heard a gunshot from inside. "We saw them fleeing on a cycle. The doctor was screaming for help," said one of the guards.

"About 300 metres away, near RIC Bazaar, we tried stopping them but one of them flashed his gun," said Kartick Roy, a local cable operator. "I got scared."

The girls ran down the road and entered the house of private tutor Tapan Roy.

"The two girls were panting and trembling. I just managed to understand that one of their seniors from the same locality had been fired upon while trying to protest their harassment," Tapan said.

"A shooting in such a locality in the afternoon is something we just cannot bring ourselves to believe. So many parents, children and college students walk down this area in the afternoon every day," he added.

Mangal was rushed to RG Kar Medical College Hospital, where surgeons removed the bullet this evening.

Mangal told police the girls had informed him a few days ago that two youths were "troubling" them on their way back from school. "Today, I wanted to follow the girls and find out what was happening. I did so with three of my friends," an officer of the local Baranagar police station quoted Mangal as saying.

Barrackpore police commissioner Sanjay Singh, who went to the police station to speak to Mangal's friends, refused comment.

People across the city would be worried that not only does a tease carry a gun, he even fires at the slightest provocation and escapes.

"Policing on the fringes of the city has been so poor of late that almost every criminal has a gun and is not scared of using it either," said a retired police officer.

The detective department of Barrackpore had little to say. "We have started making sketches of the accused based on the descriptions of witnesses. All the adjoining police stations have been asked to step up vigil," said an officer of Baranagar police station.

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