Burdwan, March 5: Three dacoits arrested in Kalna on Saturday have told police that the bus loot-and-rape at Dhantola was plotted by two CPM functionaries to embarrass party colleagues and have spilled the names of all those involved in the incident.
The trio, allegedly hired for the job along with 13 others from Bagda in North 24-Parganas, said they were paid Rs 700 each for the crime.
Putu Sardar, Parimal Sardar and Kamal Sardar, who confessed yesterday that they were part of the gang that attacked two buses carrying a marriage party, were grilled by the police and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at a marathon session since last night.
“The entire operation, according to them, was at the behest of the two arrested CPM functionaries of the area to discredit and embarrass other leaders in the party,” Burdwan police superintendent B.N. Ramesh said.
Nadia police, under whose jurisdiction Dhantola falls, had arrested Subol Bagchi, an Aranghata zonal committee member of the CPM, and Saidul Karigar, a former panchayat pradhan, the day after the incident. Items looted from the passengers had been recovered from Karigar’s house.
The CID team sent to Kalna from Calcutta for the interrogation took custody of the arrested men and left for Dhantola for further investigation.
The Sardar trio said they were “professionals” who specialised in looting buses and trucks. They were arrested on Saturday while they were looting trucks on the Kalna-Pandua Road.
Police sources said the three had revealed that some stolen ornaments were sold to a goldsmith in Bongaon for Rs 15,000. Two wristwatches, said to belong to the bus passengers, had been found with the men. The CID has seized their clothes and sent them for forensic tests to confirm allegations of rape.
The police are still on the lookout for gang leader Cheema Sardar, who is believed to have shot dead the driver of one of the buses, Samir Ghosh. Nadia police had earlier said that one Sultan had killed the driver after he identified some of the looters.
All relevant information gathered from the Sardars had been handed over to the CID, which has been entrusted with the case, the police said.
“So far, we had very little information about the composition of the gang and insight into how the operation actually took place. Now, we have more evidence that will be used to draw up the chargesheets against those arrested,” a CID officer investigating the incident said.
Cheema’s arrest is crucial to the logical conclusion of the investigation, he added.
Besides the Sardar trio, police have made 18 arrests in the case that has shaken the government.
The CPM-dominated women’s commission said there was “substantial evidence” that at least six women, including four minors, were raped. They took the women to the Dhantola police station and filed FIRs.
The Nadia police had said after the incident that Bagchi had recruited Karigar to put together a gang to raid guests returning from the wedding of the daughter of Sanath Dhali, the CPM local committee secretary of Panikhali. Bagchi could not tolerate Dhali’s dominance in the area.