Bankura/Durgapur, Nov. 5: Robbers tied a family to their car in the middle of a state highway to use them as a bait to stop other vehicles, but a truck rammed into it, killing three of the victims.
Early this morning, Sushanta Singha Mahapatra was returning to his Bankura home with his brothers in their Mahindra Bolero. The driver stopped the car on the Joyrambati-Bankadaha Road, near Bishnupur, spotting logs on the path.
Sushanta said as soon as the car stopped, about 10 robbers ringed it.
“They ordered us to give whatever we had at gunpoint. The area was deserted. We did not resist and handed over all our belongings,” the 32-year-old, who left home yesterday in a huff after quarrelling with elder brother Dhruba, said.
The gang told them — the six occupants in the car along with the driver — to get off. The robbers then parked the car in the middle of the road and tied all six to the Bolero.
“We pleaded with them to let us go. They told us they would use us as baits to stop other vehicles coming from both directions. We stood tied for 20 minutes, I think, our hearts beating fast. We were sweating despite the morning chill,” Sushanta said.
The robbers hid behind bushes on the sides of the Joyrambati-Bankadaha Road, waiting for their catch.
“As the sky was clearing, I saw a pair of headlights at a distance. When the lights drew nearer, it was a truck hurtling down towards us at great speed. We began to shout to warn the driver, but it rammed into us,” Sushanta said.
He was knocked unconscious.
When he came to at Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital, Dhruba and younger brother Mrinal Kanti, 26, had died.
Driver Banamali Gorai, 30, succumbed to injuries in hospital.
Yesterday, after a fight with Dhruba, Sushanta left his home in Sarenga, Bankura, for his friend’s residence in Kamarpukur, Hooghly.
The Singha Mahapatras, a family of affluent farmers, said Dhruba, Mrinal Kanti and two relatives — Dhol Gobinda Singha Mahapatra and Subhas Chandra Mahato — had gone to Kamarpukur yesterday to bring Sushanta home.
“I loved my brothers very much. I repent leaving home now,” Sushanta wept on his hospital bed. “I feel responsible for their deaths.”
Dhol Gobinda and Subhas were injured and also admitted to the Bankura hospital.
Sushanta has suffered injuries to his head, hands and legs.
Villagers came out of their homes after hearing a loud crash and took the six to hospital.
A police patrol van arrived at the spot, about 180km from Calcutta, about an hour later. The truck driver, who had suffered some scratches, was handed over to them. The police also seized the truck that had turned on its side by the impact of the crash.
Later this morning, a mob blocked National Highway 60, half a kilometre from the spot, for almost 12 hours protesting police failure to check robberies. They alleged that the police were hand in glove with the gangs and more keen to collect bribes from truck drivers.
“We repeatedly told the police that something terri- ble had happened but they were busy seizing the truck and tried to project the incident as just another road accident,” said local Congress leader Dibyendu Banerjee.
The police, led by sub-divisional police officer D. Bhattacharya, tried to pacify the mob, but in vain.
After more than 12 hours, a force led by Bankura superintendent of police Vishal Garg arrived at 6.30pm and wielded the baton to disperse the agitators.
The mob started hurling stones at the police and chased them. They ransacked two police jeeps and set one on fire.
“We resorted to a lathicharge to disperse the mob. They attacked us with stones and ransacked two of our vehicles. But we didn’t open fire. We will step up patrolling on the highway and other roads during the night,” SP Garg said.
Villagers, however, alleged that the police had fired eight rounds in the air to disperse the protesters.