| Pritam |
Naugachia, July 16: Police are still in the dark over who murdered Pritam Bhattacharjee, the Assam student whose body was found near a railway station yesterday.
Pritam, a 25-year-old physics student who was travelling to Delhi on the Awadh Assam Express, went missing from the Naugachia railway station on July 9 after he gave chase to a bunch of youths who had fled with his bag. His body, with his throat slit, was found near the Kataria station, about 9km from Naugachia, around 7am yesterday. The youth from Silchar was on way to Delhi for a PhD enrolment exam.
The Bihar police appeared clueless about the mindless killing, the fifth in the last 20 days in Naugachia. “We are interrogating some persons but there has been no major breakthrough,” admitted inspector-general, railways, Vinay Kumar. He has been camping in Naugachia, about 250km east of Patna in Bhagalpur district, since Saturday. Naugachia is a crime-prone area known to be the den of gangs indulging in train dacoities.
The railway police say they have spoke to Pritam’s co-passengers on board coach S-10 of the train that he had boarded from Guwahati. “No one is saying they noticed anything untoward inside the coach,” said Kumar.
Pritam had spoken to his parents in Silchar from Naugachia station, saying four men had been harassing him ever since the train crossed Katihar — the station preceding Naugachia — and that two of them had snatched his bag carrying his laptop and important documents. He had chased the duo, but failed to catch them. At Naugachia, Pritam told his parents, he had complained to a policeman he presumed was from the Government Railway Police (GRP).
IG Kumar said the official Pritam had spoken to was from the Railway Protection Force (RPF), which is under the Centre. “The constable was from the RPF and his duty was to check the seals of the luggage booked on the Awadh Assam Express. The RPF constable now denies that anyone complained to him about a bag snatching. We are going to complain to the RPF against him,” Kumar said.
The railway police say Pritam’s father advised him not to register a complaint with the GRP. “He was advised to go to Katihar and take a train to Delhi. Had he lodged an official complaint with the GRP, the situation would have been different,” Kumar said. He said investigations had revealed that Pritam had spent some time on the platform and had a cup of tea. But the police appear clueless on what happened thereafter.
Officials said the local police was under “tremendous pressure” right from the day Pritam went missing. “A top politician of the state had telephoned the police asking them to recover Pritam,” said an official. Since then the police have been conducting several raids in villages known to harbour criminals. “It is quite possible that Pritam was kidnapped from the station and taken to a hideout. But the gang could not do anything further due to the intense raids and found it more convenient to murder him and dispose of the body,” said a police official who did not wish to be named.
Sandwiched between the rivers Kosi and Ganga, Naugachia earned the sobriquet “chay inchi chhota” (chopping the body in parts of six inches each) about two decades ago. In the nineties, this sub-division was upgraded to a separate police district. As many as five persons have been found dead with their throats slit in the past 20 days in Naugachia. Police are clueless in all the cases. Jayant Kant, the Naugachia superintendent of police, said the force was trying its best to nab the culprits. Local residents are seething in rage at the murder spree. “Even after converting Naugachia into a model station, where important trains like the Rajdhani stop, passenger amenities are woeful. The rising crime graph has added to the problems of passengers here,” said Bindashwari Mandal, a social activist of Naugachia who has often raised his voice against train gangs.