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Cops fumble, youth dies

Bhagalpur, July 15: An Assam student who went missing six days ago from a Bihar railway station after getting off his train to chase a gang that had stolen his bag was found dead under a railway foot overbridge this morning with his throat slit.

The unsolved disappearance and subsequent murder of 25-year-old Pritam Bhattacharjee, a Silchar resident, prompted his relatives to question the police’s role and the claims of a law-and-order improvement in Bihar.

Pritam was on his way to Delhi on the Awadh-Assam Express to appear in a PhD enrolment exam. When the train from Guwahati reached Naugachia station on Monday, a gang fled with his bag containing his mark sheets and a digital camera. He was last seen chasing them.

The body was found around 7am near Kataria railway station, 9km from Naugachia and 260km east of Patna, police said. Pritam’s cellphone was in his pocket, and his PAN card and driving licence inside his wallet. The bag was missing.

Police sources suggested Pritam had been dead around 12 hours, which means he was alive and untraced for five days. Relatives of Pritam who have arrived in Naugachia and have been camping there received the news around 9.30am.

His uncle K.K. Purkayastha blamed the police. “The gang wouldn’t have done that had they been afraid of the police. Law and order has collapsed in Bihar,” he said.

“It’s a wrong perception that Bihar has changed,” said Ram Mohan Bhattacharjee, another of Pritam’s uncles. “How can people travel in long-distance trains passing through Bihar under such circumstances?”

Superintendent of railway police Sukhan Paswan said the force had tried its best to find Pritam alive, raiding several criminal hideouts. “Members of criminal gangs were questioned but nothing substantial came up.”

He said a police officer had been sent to Guwahati to collect details of the passengers of Pritam’s coach. “Interrogation of the co-passengers will reveal what happened.”

No one has been arrested or detained yet. Naugachia police chief Jayant Kant could not suggest a motive for the murder. “Investigation is on to ascertain the killers’ identities. The motive will come out only after they are arrested.”

Neighbours and relatives gathered at Pritam’s home in Silchar to console his father Sankar Bhattacharjee, former principal and Sanskrit teacher at Silchar Women’s College, and mother Utpala. Sources said Pritam’s last rites would be performed in Bihar.