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Villagers loot cash seized by cops
- 1.19 lakh of rs 3.7 lakh recovered

Raiganj, May 3: A handful of policemen arrested three armed robbers and recovered a bag containing cash this morning only to lose it to villagers, who snatched away most of the Rs 3.7 lakh from the law enforcers.

By evening, however, Rs 1.07 lakh was recovered besides the Rs 12,000, which the policemen had managed to hold on to.

Left red in the face, the police had deployed a huge force in the Baliamoni village of Domohona and had asked the people over loudspeakers to return the money or face action.

“We were making the announcements from the outskirts of the village. At random, we approached the house nearest to us and challenged a villager inside to give up the money. The suddenness of the challenge shocked the man, who confessed that he had kept Rs 1.07 lakh under the mattress,” said district superintendent of police Sankar Singha.

The money belongs to two brothers, both jute traders, the police said. Lakshmipati and Vinod Dhakali were on their way from Dalkhola to a local market at Rasakhoa on their motorcycle when they were stopped by six armed youths at the approach to the Domohona bridge on NH34 around 7.30am. The national highway connects Barasat in North 24 Parganas to Dalkhola.

According to the complaint lodged, the two men were beaten up with bamboo sticks and robbed off their money at gunpoint. The robbers took the Rs 3.7 lakh that were in a bag one of the Dhakali brothers was carrying and fled on two other motorcycles on a kutcha village road.

The stricken men called the Karandighi police station — most traders in this district adjoining Bihar carry the telephone numbers of the local police stations — and a force comprising a sub-inspector and four constables reached the spot within 20 minutes and followed the road the looters had taken.

The villagers of Baliamoni showed the police team the house where the gang had taken refuge. After the men in khaki surrounded the house, three of the robbers surrendered. The others had managed to escape earlier. While arresting the trio, the police seized the bag full of looted cash. A pipe-gun, a round of live ammunition and a mobile phone were also recovered.

More than 400 villagers had gathered to watch the police operation. As soon as the law enforcers came out of the house with the arrested youths and the cash, the villagers pounced on them and started pulling at the bag. The bag tore and the cash scattered to the ground. The villagers went on a looting frenzy and made away with as much cash as they could.

One of the constables at the scene said three policemen had been holding on to the three robbers. “The remaining two of us tried to recover the money from the villagers. The driver (of the police vehicle) was in the jeep. We were hard put to manage our arms as well as the arrested men. The manner in which the villagers looted the cash had not been anticipated,” he added.

The arrested youths — identified as Mohammad Rezuddin, Mohammad Yakub and Mohammad Yunus — as well as those who escaped were from the adjoining Patror village.

“Initially, the police went away with Rs 12,000. Later we recovered Rs 1.07 lakh. We are also investigating the role of the family members of the house where the robbers had taken shelter,” the police chief said.

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