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Friends’ arrest rips abduct veil

In May 1995, she disappeared from the seaside resort of Chandipur. In June 2004, the mystery of the missing woman was reopened.

On Friday, four arrests carried out by the CID in connection with the “abduction” case lent a dramatic twist to the matter and gave Sushmita Dhar’s family something to stay afloat with.

The arrested were identified as Debanjan Das, Rajiv Chowdhury, Suparna Banerjee — classmates of the second-year MA student of Jadavpur University, who had accompanied her on the trip — and Sachin Chandra Banerjee, Suparna’s father.

Banerjee had, intriguingly, engaged a private detective agency to crack the case without the knowledge of either the police or the Dhar family.

“We do not have a clear idea as yet with regard to her (Sushmita’s) whereabouts, but we believe these four are in a position to throw light on what happened to her in May 1995,” said a CID sleuth.

“They have been quite inconsistent in their versions about what had happened back then in Chandipur,” he added.

All former students of Jadavpur University, Debanjan Das and Rajiv Chowdhury are now college teachers based in West Midnapore and Calcutta, respectively, while Suparna Banerjee teaches in a prominent school in south Calcutta. Sachin Chandra Banerjee is a retired bureaucrat, CID officials added.

The three ‘friends’ of Sushmita were booked under Sections 120B, 363 and 364 (criminal conspiracy, abduction from lawful guardianship and abduction for murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

All four accused were produced before the sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Alipore, and remanded in judicial custody till July 19.

The Sushmita Dhar mystery broke on a May morning in 1995, at Chandipur, where six post-graduate students of Jadavpur University’s Bengali department had gone on a holiday.

According to reports, Sushmita went missing on May 16, a few hours before the group’s scheduled departure for Calcutta.

After lodging a complaint with the local police, whose efforts to locate Sushmita drew a blank, the group returned to Calcutta and informed the Dhar family of their daughter’s disappearance.

With the Dhar family petitioning the government, the CID and then the CBI were called in, but no headway was made.

The curtains finally rose on the next act of the disappearance drama in May 2004, when Sushmita’s parents chanced upon an advertisement in a newspaper about a detective agency and approached it with the case.

The agency expressed its inability to take up the matter, as it had been engaged by Sachin Chandra Banerjee back in 1995 to trace Sushmita.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government ordered reopening of the case after the Dhar family brought the private detective’s earlier findings — including a blood-splattered night dress that was found at the resort but never reached the investigating agencies — to its notice. Friday’s arrest marks the first breakthrough in the Sushmita case.

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