The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On-the-run Dhantola kingpin trapped

Calcutta, April 2: Cheema Sardar, the leader of the gang behind the Dhantola rape-and-loot incident, was traced to a village in North 24-Parganas 12 days after he fled from custody and arrested by the CID after a shootout in his house.

The CID had launched a manhunt immediately after Cheema escaped on March 19 evening while being interrogated in Ranaghat. Within a couple of days, the sleuths tracked down one of his close associates, Sheikh Kaalia, in Gaadamara village on the Nadia-North 24-Parganas border.

Following the leads provided by Kaalia and those picked up in the course of investigation, a CID team arrived at Macchlandapur, about 15 km from Ranaghat near the Nadia-North 24-Parganas border, early this morning. The officials surrounded a house where Cheema was known to have shifted about a month ago with his parents.

Narrating the operation, deputy inspector-general, CID, Raj Kanojia said two policemen knocked on the door of the thatched hut after eight officers with sophisticated firearms cut off all escape routes. As soon as Cheema’s father opened the door, they burst in. Cheema, asleep on the floor, was caught unawares but reached for his revolver and a hacksaw under his pillow.

“He opened fire from his improvised firearm and, swinging the hacksaw, tried to make a dash for the back door. Policemen fired from their revolvers. A bullet hit him in his foot and another in his thigh,” Kanojia said. The injured Cheema was admitted to Ranaghat sub-divisional hospital.

Along with Kanojia, special superintendent of police, CID, Ramphal Pawar rushed to Ranaghat this afternoon to monitor the situation. Inspector-general, CID, Naparajit Mukherjee said Cheema’s parents were taken into “preventive custody”.

Cheema confessed to interrogators in the hospital that he had led a 15-member gang of bandits in the rape-and-loot spree, adds our Nadia correspondent. CID investigators said Cheema narrated that the gangsters reached Ranaghat by rail and went to Ainsmali at Dhantola to ambush the two buses. But policemen said he is yet to disclose who hired his gang.

Cheema had fled from a detective department office in Ranaghat where he was being grilled after being arrested from Amdanga on March 19.

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