The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Loot-and-escape drama on train to Sealdah

Siliguri, July 26: Robbers cleaned out passengers in a bogie of the Kanchenjunga express after it left Guwahati last night and escaped with money and valuables worth Rs 8 lakh as the train slowed down near a station, a move that passen-gers complained seemed orchestrated.

The train left Guwahati for Sealdah at 10 pm and had barely crossed Kamakhya an hour later when the dacoits entered the S-4 bogie. By the time the express reached Rangiya station at 11.50, the dacoits had fled with cash and jewellery, leaving behind several injured passengers.

A little before Rangiya station, the robbers got off and melted in the darkness as the train slowed down.

“It is hard to explain why the train slowed down and who asked the driver to do so. None of the 35-40 passengers (in the bogie) had pulled the chain,” said Tarachandra Ghosh of Yadavpally here.

“When the train sped off after slowing, one of the passengers pulled the emergency chain and stopped the train. But by then there was no trace of the culprits and the guards were clueless,” he added.

The passengers lodged a complaint with the government railway police at Rangiya station.

When the train reached New Jalpaiguri station around 10 this morning, two hours behind schedule, the passengers narrated the events of last night.

Travelling ticket examiner Ratan Biswas said: “Some 12 young men boarded the train at Kamakhya. I was standing near the door when one of them came near me. When I asked where they wished to go, he said they would get off nearby.

“Suddenly the man produced a gun and asked me to sit on the floor, threatening to kill me if I did not listen. While one held me at gunpoint the others looted the passengers.”

Two of the dacoits carried country-made guns, while the others carried khukris and other sharp weapons.

Dharamendra Prasad, a Guwahati businessman heading for Siliguri on work, was robbed of Rs 40,000. “I was about to go to sleep on my berth (number 23) when someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned round to see a man standing with a khukri. He asked me to give him all I had. He snatched the cash that I had hid in a bag and also took away my gold ring and a chain. Now I will have to look for a way to go back home,” he said.

The passengers complained that no one came to their aid despite repeated shouts for help.

Siliguri businessmen R.K. Agarwal and D.P. Agarwal, who were injured when the robbers struck them, were treated at the New Jalpaiguri railway hospital and discharged.

“When the train reached the (New Jalpaiguri) station we were told by the passengers about the robbery. We arranged for the treatment of two people injured in the attack at the railway hospital,” said Rinchen Lama Bhutia, officer-in-charge of the GRP at the station. “The passengers said goods worth more than Rs 8 lakh have been stolen,” he added.

Sashi Kanth Pujari, superintendent of railway police, said: “We have heard that a robbery took place on the train, but it is difficult to comment since it happened in Assam, which is not under our jurisdiction. Security on the train is the responsibility of the police of the state through which it is passing,” he added.

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