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Lake Town assailants evade arrest

Twenty-four hours after jeweller Prajesh Kumar Verma, 32, was shot at in Patipukur, in Lake Town, the police rounded up the assailants after hurdling what they alleged was political interference. “The assailants are being sheltered by their political mentors, making it difficult for us to round them up,’’ said a Lake Town police officer on Monday.

Investigations revealed that the Santosh-Arvind group targeted Verma over his “friendship” with its rivals, Mukhtar and Sona Thakur. On Sunday evening, seven miscreants accosted Verma near Patipukur, while he was returning home after closing shop in Belgachhia.

“The goons cornered Verma on a deserted stretch and accused him of financing Sona and Mukhtar. When Verma tried to protest, he was shot in the hips and left bleeding,’’ said an officer of Lake Town police station.

Neighbours saw the injured trader on the ground and informed his father, Rajendra Prasad. Verma was first taken to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital and later shifted to a private nursing home. Police said his condition was improving.

According to additional superintendent of police Ajay Nand, Verma’s name does not figure in the crime records. “Neighbours have given him a clean chit. We are, however, verifying reports about his recent friendship with Mukhtar and Sona,’’ Nand added.

Raids have been conducted in several areas and five persons detained in connection to the incident. On Monday, the police admitted that they had failed to arrest Mukhtar, Sona, Santosh and Arvind and their associates, but blamed it on the politicians. Party members, however, denied such allegations, saying the police were trying to cover up their own failure.

Residents confirmed that a section of influential CPM leaders of the area were patronising the criminals. “We have complained to the police about the rise in criminal activities in the area, but so far no action has been taken against them. In fact, some of the criminals move around in the area quite freely,’’ said Sudhir Das of S.K. Deb Road, in Lake Town.

Recently, a trader, who had set up a medicine shop in the area, was shot dead by criminals after he refused to give in to their demands. In another incident, about a fortnight ago, three criminals threatened another shop-owner in Lake Town, forcing him to seek police protection.

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