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Pinki does a somersault before police

Nov. 24: Pinki Pramanik, the 17-year-old athlete who was caught with a pistol in her kit, today baffled police by backtracking on all her earlier statements.

Grilled by Nadia superintendent Benoy Chakraborty and several other officers, Pinki, a group-D employee of Eastern Railway, claimed that whatever she said about how she got the pistol was not true.

The girl, who shot to stardom on the tracks in a very short time, had told the police yesterday that she found the weapon in a toilet at the divisional railway manager's office in Sealdah. Today, she said one of the five youths who 'harassed' her yesterday snatched her bag and put the pistol in it.

'Sir, please save me. I made a mistake by saying I found the pistol in a toilet at the DRM's office. Actually, one of the ruffians who teased me near Habibpur railway station planted the pistol in my bag,' Pinki told interrogators.

In Calcutta, sports minister Subhas Chakraborty said: 'Weapons are carried illegally all over India.'

The discovery of a pistol in the sprinter's kit, Chakraborty said at Writer's Buildings, is an 'isolated' incident and 'not very important'.

He added that Pinki has not been named in connection with any crime. 'Merely' carrying a weapon, according to the minister, does not amount to an offence.

The Nadia police chief said: 'She told us that she made the false statement out of fear. She thought the police would let her go after knowing that she was a railway employee. She is very naive and does not know what to make of her own statements.'

Pinki, from a poor farmer family in Purulia, bagged the railway job though she is below 18 because of her potential. She was part of the gold-winning 1,600 m relay team at the junior Asian Track and Field meet in Manila last year.

A month ago, she went missing from a national camp.

On her chances of making it to the training camp for the Youth Commonwealth Athletics Meet, Chakraborty said: 'I will have to find out how bright her chances are. After that I will decide whether to plead her case.'

Pinki had yesterday said she was teased by a group of five near Habibpur station, about 70 km from Calcutta. She apparently slapped one of the youths and they dragged her to the local panchayat pradhan, Saraswati Sarkar.

Today, Pinki said that after she slapped the youth, a scuffle ensued and one of the five snatched her bag. 'Suddenly I fell on the road. They beat me up and I picked up a stone and tried to hit back. Then they dragged me to the panchayat pradhan, who searched my bag. The youths told her to do so.'

The five, who disappeared after that, are yet to be traced.

The Nadia police chief said: 'We had sent her to Ranaghat Hospital and tests have confirmed that she was beaten up. She had injuries in the neck, back and legs.' He added that joint raids with the Government Railway Police would be conducted to nab the youths. 'A case has been registered with the Ranaghat GRP.'

Pinki had also told the police that she was on her way to meet two friends, Monika Biswas and Shyamali Biswas.

Last night, the inspector in charge of Ranaghat, Chandan Banerjee, called Monika to the police station and questioned her along with Pinki.

Intelligence sources said a few young men used to visit Pinki at the Sports Authority of India camp in Salt Lake. Attempts are on to identify them.

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