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Help! Lend some bullets to cops
- Residents bail out police during encounter with gang near Agra

Dec. 24: Police ran out of bullets in the middle of a gunfight with mafia, so they just asked local households to lend them some.

It was western Uttar Pradesh, after all, although just 20km from Taj Mahal.

Baara bore ki kartoos hai (do you have cartridges of 12-bore rifles)?” a policeman shouted at the half-shut windows through which Adarsh Lane on Agra’s outskirts watched the battle last evening. The force was perched on rooftops, dodging the gangsters’ bullets.

Hai, magar nakli hoga (we have some but they are locally made, not original),” a resident shouted back. In a minute, about 100 cartridges were passed on, some of them in small bags that were thrown to the rooftops.

They worked fine, allowing the police to hold the gang off till reinforcements arrived with AK-47s and sten guns.

“Had the local people not promptly handed over the cartridges, some of our men might have got killed,” an officer said today.

“The residents must have stocked some cartridges for self-defence,” the Agra additional superintendent of police, Ashfaq Ahmad, said nonchalantly.

The semi-urban locality of Shahdara, a bus ride away from the world’s greatest monument to love, is a battlefield where extortion gangs compete for supremacy.

Many of the area’s traders and rich farmers have licensed revolvers or rifles, but they stock up illegally on locally made bullets because of the limited legal supplies they are allowed.

The practice is widespread in western Uttar Pradesh, where firing in the air during marriages and other social celebrations is as common as honour killings and land battles.

The region is dotted with illegal munitions factories and is also a big market for gun-makers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The police didn’t need all the 100 bullets they were supplied yesterday: 50 proved enough. The two-and-a-half-hour encounter with the Durgesh Jatav gang left two mafiosi, including the don’s brother Sanjay, dead. But Durgesh and the rest escaped.

Officers said the gang had killed a school principal, 49-year-old Santosh Thakre, in neighbouring Firozabad on Friday night because he had refused its demand for Rs 50,000.

The next day, Firozabad police had lathi-charged pre-teen students of the S.R. Ganeshwari HS School, dragging the girls by the hair till several passed out in pain, after they had blocked a road in protest at the murder.

During yesterday’s joint encounter by the Agra and Firozabad police, the personnel asked for 12-bore rifle cartridges “because this rifle is more effective in this kind of encounter”, ASP Ahmad said.

Firozabad police chief V.K. Garg said the officer in charge of supplying cartridges had temporarily been cut off from the front line.

Durgesh has terrorised the area and is wanted in 20 cases, an officer said. “We won’t rest till we either arrest or eliminate the entire gang.”

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