I have stayed in this city for long and travelled in autos to Jadavpur University where I studied international relations. But I couldn’t even imagine that something like this could happen to me on a busy road just in front of my alma mater. I was slapped by a man with whom I did not even have any argument, and the police, whom we look up to at times of distress, refused to help even as three women kept pleading with them.
I am now in my second year of postgraduation (social work) at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). As I am in town for seven days, I went to meet two of my friends at Jadavpur University. It was around 7.30pm that all three of us decided to return home — me heading towards Ganguly Bagan. As the buses were too crowded, we stood opposite the , between gates 2 and 3 near Jadavpur 8B, and tried to hail an auto. About 10-12 attempts failed, all of them refused to go beyond .

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Incidents like this make a separate policy for reining in rogue auto-rickshaw drivers absolutely essential. Sectors like Garia-Golpark, Ultadanga-Salt Lake and Park Circus-Esplanade have become notorious for several reasons, including arbitrary shortening of routes and rowdyism by drivers. We desperately need a passenger-friendly policy.

By this time, I had approached the sergeant standing near 8B opposite for help. He gestured to us that we should seek help of the cop standing near JU main gate. We approached this officer who did come and issue challans to two autos. Finally, he left, saying, “there were too many autos and that the situation was beyond his control”.

It was under these circumstances that Asish Saha reached the spot where we were standing. It was around 8.30pm. There were around 25-odd passengers by now and Saha, too, refused to go beyond Baghajatin. As passengers tried to ask him why he was not following the route, I put a hand on the glass shield and made repeated attempts to make him change his mind. He never answered me. Suddenly, he came out of the auto and slapped me. I was hit on my neck.

Other passengers forced him out of the auto. My friends rushed to find a cop and eventually found one near Gate 2. The policeman refused to come, saying he could not leave his post, but said he would call for reinforcements. Officers from Jadavpur PS reached after 20 minutes and told me to lodge a complaint. All this time, the other auto drivers tried every trick to bail out their man as we kept waiting for help. By that time, my parents too reached the police station.

It’s easier to criminalise one economically disadvantaged auto driver, for what he did. I am sure, it would have been a different story had the man belonged to social strata at least similar to mine.

This person should be punished and he has been. But the indifference of a policeman when he is pleaded by two women for help, is the reason the situation turned out this way. The absolute apathy of the man in uniform, when he refused to move from his spot even as my friend called him saying a girl was hit, can’t be forgotten.

(The writer is a TISS postgraduate student) (As told to Dwaipayan Ghosh)

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