The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bus gangrape leader escapes from custody

Calcutta, March 20: After the injury, the insult.

In the latest twist to the Dhantola gangrape case, the leader of the dacoits who waylaid the two buses carrying wedding guests in Nadia last month, escaped from CID custody though he was handcuffed and bound by a thick rope.

An embarrassed state police issued suspension orders on a CID sub-inspector and a National Volunteer Force (NVF) member, who were present when Cheema Sardar made the dash.

“It is unfortunate that the criminal made a successful getaway from our custody, but we have launched a massive manhunt to locate him once more. Two of our men were suspended for dereliction of duty,” deputy inspector-general of police, CID, Raj Kanojia, said.

Cheema had been picked up last morning after a long hunt by the CID from Amdanga village in North 24-Parganas. CID personnel, acting on a tip-off, had reached the village the day before.

The dacoit leader entered a hut next to the one where the sleuths lay in wait and was immediately surrounded. Cheema was taken to Ranaghat where he was interrogated at the office of the inspector, detective department. Inspector Sadhan Roy and a CID sub-inspector grilled him.

The inspector’s office is a three-room, single-storey building beside a busy main road close to the railway tracks. Cheema was subjected to two rounds of interrogation.

Well-built and nearly six feet tall, he was handcuffed and a thick rope was tied round his waist. Every time he got up to go to the toilet, the policemen held the rope tight.

It was close to 8 pm when the sub-inspector, who had been newly posted to the CID and was instrumental in catching Cheema, began another round of interrogation. The questioning began in a room next to the inspector’s office.

Cheema was standing with the NVF man beside him holding on to the rope while the sub-inspector leaned on a table in the middle of the room. Behind Cheema was an open door.

Fifteen minutes into the grilling, CID sources said, Cheema suddenly swung his manacled hands at the NVF man, who was sent sprawling across the floor with a deep cut on his head. The prisoner then hit out at the sub-inspector, felling the stunned officer.

Cheema then made a dash for the open door and ran into the night across the railway tracks. The other men in the office rushed in on hearing the commotion. Roy and two other policemen gave chase, but by then the criminal had a head start.

According to sources, Ramphal Pawar, special superintendent, CID, has been sent to Ranaghat from Calcutta to catch Cheema, who had been picked up following the confessions of two men arrested in connection with the looting of a truck in Kalna, Burdwan.

The two — Putu and Parimal Sardar — had told the police they were part of the gang, led by Cheema, which had carried out the Dhantola outrage.

The two men, along with a third, named Lodhai, were identified as being among the rapists by five of the women victims at a test identification parade at the detective department inspector’s office last Monday.

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