Enraged residents set fire to six vessels and clashed with the police in Shantipur, Nadia, on Sunday morning over a delay in launching rescue operations following a boat capsize in the Ganga river.
Police had to resort to firing rubber bullets and tear gas shells, besides taking up a baton charge, to control the mob.
The boat, which was ferrying people from Kalna in Burdwan to Shantipur in Nadia, capsized on Saturday night. While local residents alleged that dozens of people had drowned, district officials said around five people were reported missing. The bodies of the deceased may have been swept away by the strong river current, sources in the administration said.
Residents of the area were enraged because rescue operations could be launched only by Sunday morning, nearly 12 hours after the incident. “We reached the spot as soon as we were alerted. However, rescue operations were hampered because of the low light conditions and the rain,” said Soumitra Mohan, district magistrate of Burdwan.
Most of the passengers in the boat were returning from a fair in Kalna when the incident occurred. As the word spread, local residents began agitating near Shantipur Ghat.
Early the next morning, police launched a baton charge to disperse the crowd – further infuriating them. They began throwing bricks at the police, injuring an assistant sub-inspector, and set six vessels on fire. A large contingent of police personnel was later deployed at the scene of the agitation, and tear gas shells and rubber bullets were used to control the mob.