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10 trucks waylaid, looted

Burdwan, March. 1: Residents of villages on the border of Burdwan and Hooghly districts held up traffic on the state highway today to protest against alleged police inaction during the looting of trucks in the area last night.

The residents also had a scuffle with policemen who reached the spot. They alleged that the police took no action despite reaching the site while the looting was going on.

Later, forces sent to the area from Kalna, Panduah and Balagarh police stations brought the situation under control.

Villagers also caught two members of the gang and handed them over to the police after beating them up, police department sources said.

Members of the gang had assembled around 9 pm at Kalyanpur in the Kalna police station area on the Kalna-Panduah highway. The dacoits laid logs across the road, forcing the trucks to stop, and then looted them.

This was conveyed by the driver of a tanker — who managed to flee the area — to the members of a vigilante group patrolling the Bankulia area in Hooghly district.

Word was passed on to police stations in both the districts, though a police patrol was supposed to be in the region, the residents alleged.

The villagers added that at least 10 trucks were looted of lubricants paint, foodgrain and other items, while some drivers were held hostage.

“We could not react as we were all unarmed, but we saw that the dacoits were becoming nervous as we were about a dozen and more villagers were gathering at the spot,” said one member of the vigilante group. “However, the police was nowhere to be seen,” he said.

Burdwan police superintendent B.N. Ramesh refuted the allegations. “The police acted in time to prevent the situation from getting out of control. Two of the dacoits were arrested from the spot along with the arms they were carrying,” he said.

The police chief, however, denied that the force was slow to react. He said word had been sent to areas in Nadia and Hooghly to arrest the remaining three gang members.

“The gang dispersed and when we saw two of them enter Kalyanpur village, we gave a chase,” said Siraj Sheikh, a member of the vigilante group.

When police came to take the two men away, a scuffle broke out between them and the agitated villagers. The villagers said the police arrived at the scene only at 2.30 am. Later, when more policemen were sent to the spot, the villagers handed over the dacoits to them.

“The area has become very crime-prone and, despite our telling the police on many occasions to intensify patrolling, nothing is done,” the villagers added.

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