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Terror tactics shift
- Traders threaten strike, gherao as cops fail to round up assault accused

Five years ago, local extortionists would have a field day here, making a killing by terrorising traders.

For a few years in between, there was a lull on the crime charts, but now the fear has staged a comeback in a more menacing form ' from random to organised, from local to beyond state borders.

The Burrabazar belt has become the happy hunting ground for hoodlums of many hues, admit the police, hinting at 'a national underworld network'.

'Earlier, the crime scene here would be dominated by the likes of Gabbar, Gudda, Sona and Nadim, who were all from Calcutta. As all of them are now behind bars, gangsters from neighbouring states like Bihar and Jharkhand have stepped in,' stated a sleuth.

Explaining the changing nature of terror tactics, P.R. Goenka, president of Onkar Chitpur Vyabsayik Samity, said: 'Previously, we had to pay them on a monthly basis. Now, businessmen have to annually pay a minimum of Rs 5,000. Even a small building in this area houses no less than 50 offices. So, the total amount extorted by the goons is nothing less than Rs 100 crore.'

Another businessman, on condition of anonymity, said: 'Now, gangsters demand money on the pretext of organising a welfare programme and helping the poor. If someone does not pay, he is harassed and maybe even attacked.'

Haribansh Rai fell victim to such hooliganism on February 4, when he was attacked by several armed goons. He has been admitted to Marwari Relief Society Hospital.

The Chitpur Vyabsayik Samity, of which Rai is vice-president, is peeved at yet another show of police apathy. No arrests have been carried out, despite Rai having named his three assailants.

Samity members have threatened a strike from Saturday, following their next meeting at 163, Rabindra Sarani, if Rai's attackers are not rounded up by Friday.

'We will go on a strike and will also gherao Burrabazar police station if the local cops do not act immediately. We also do not rule out a rasta roko in the area. Police have failed in their duty to protect us,' said Goenka.

The traders alleged that not even an FIR had been filed, despite sub-inspector Arun Saha having come to Marwari Relief Society Hospital to record Rai's statement.

Sudhangshu Sil, CPM parliamentarian from Calcutta (West), went to the hospital on Tuesday and met Rai.

Just over a month before the attack on Rai, Sanwar Chowdhury, another trader, had been assaulted just outside his 163, Rabindra Sarani office.

An FIR was lodged and the attackers identified, but Chowdhury alleges that police have not done anything and his assailants continue to stalk the locality.

Police are also exploring how Burrabazar has become a hub for those involved in anti-national activities.

Intelligence agencies, both state and central, have mentioned in their reports how extremist outfits are now using the money trail from Burrabazar to divert funds.

'On interrogating Lashkar-e-Toiba's Tariq Akhtar, who was arrested from Madan Street four days ago, we learnt how he, as overseer of Lashkar's activities in the eastern region, would receive payments through hundi operators based in the Burrabazar-Posta belt,' said an officer working on the case.

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