The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Demand for release of Dhantola accused

Ranaghat, March 20: Thousands of supporters of Subal Bagchi, the alleged mastermind of the twin bus dacoities in Dhantola, marched towards Ranaghat court today demanding his immediate release and shouting that police should arrest the real culprits.

The people came in large groups from villages around the Dhantola area where Bagchi, a CPM member and teacher at a primary school, is reportedly quite popular.

Bagchi and Saidul Karigar, a former CPM panchayat pradhan, were among the first to be arrested in connection with the incident in Nadia district in which dacoits waylaid two buses carrying wedding guests and raped some of the women passengers.

The CPM suspended both the men after their arrest.

Today, those arrested in connection with the outrage were brought to the sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court, where their bail petitions were scheduled to be heard.

“The magistrate will come to a decision on the bail application of Bagchi and 21 others as well as go through an appeal by the police to grant further police custody for Kamal Sardar, who was arrested in North 24-Parganas and brought here via Burdwan on March 15,” assistant public prosecutor Kalachand Bhawal said.

Bagchi’s supporters virtually barricaded the court premises, waving placards and shouting slogans.

“Release Subal Bagchi, the friend of the poor immediately,” read one placard. “Arrest the actual offenders,” said another. As the crowd started building up, others who had come to the court began to leave fearing violence.

CPM supporter Nirapad Majumdar, who lives close to Bagchi’s Ainsmali residence, said it was unthinkable that the schoolteacher could be party to such a crime. “Being a schoolteacher and the kind of work he did for the poor, it is impossible that Subal could be involved,” Majumdar said.

A CPM district leader said today’s demonstration was spontaneous and not organised by the party. With the police caught unawares, normal activity in the court came to a virtual standstill. Officials had to send word to the local police station, less than a kilometre away, for reinforcements.

“The situation was so chaotic that I called up the police. My own case could not be put up,” said Dilip Chatterjee, a lawyer.

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