The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Soiree gunman in net
Dilip after his arrest. Picture by Amit Datta

Calcutta, Oct. 29: Hatkata Dilip, one of Bengal's most-wanted criminals, was caught after a four-month chase when he was watching a late-night Hindi film in a safe house 100 km away from the city.

Dilip Banerjee was smoked out of the ancestral home of a national footballer at Noapara in Hooghly around 2.30 am today. The VCD was on, a bottle of liquor, a glass and a pack of cigarettes lay by his side.

The gangster has been wanted since he and his men went on a shooting spree on June 27, killing two at a soiree at Nayapatti in Salt Lake. A third person died of heart attack in hospital later.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee read the riot act to the police after the incident and a special team was formed under Humayun Kabir, sub-divisional police officer of Salt Lake, to track him down.

'Don't shoot me,' cried Dilip on hearing the policemen's shouts and steady pounding on the door at the family home of footballer Sasthi Duley. As he opened another door and stepped into the first floor balcony, he saw Kabir and his men on the grounds, their guns trained on him. 'Believe me, I won't shoot, I'll surrender,' said the gangster who has six murder cases pending against him.

By the time news of the arrest became known, Duley was practising with other East Bengal players and the coach. He hid in the club tent when mediapersons arrived.

His brother Uday was detained for questioning. The police said Sasthi, too, would be questioned to find out on whose recommendation he had given shelter to a criminal.

Sonai, Uday's wife, said Dilip had been brought to the house three months ago by one of Sasthi's clubmates, Dipankar Roy, and introduced as 'one of our footballers named Binod who needs to recover from back pain'. Roy could not be contacted for comment.

Praveen Kumar, superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, said: 'We have started interrogating Dilip and hope to unravel a lot of mysteries.'

Bhattacharjee had ordered that 'he must be caught alive' after it became known that the Salt Lake soiree was the brainchild of criminals who flourished with the support of a section of the CPM and the police.

During the hunt for Dilip, Kabir and his men raided a hotel owned by Avtar Singh, husband of CPM MP Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, and arrested him. The incident triggered turmoil in the CPM, pitting top leaders against each other.

After the arrest, Dilip made a statement and accompanied policemen on raids in the northern fringes that led to seizure of some firearms.

The rumour mill went into overdrive, throwing up names of camps of sports minister Subhas Chakraborty and other CPM leaders from North 24-Parganas as possible backers of Dilip. Chakraborty was quick to issue a denial. 'My detractors in politics are dragging my name into this sordid affair'. I don't even have a passing acquaintance with him,' he said.

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