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Traders on toes after 3 kidnaps

Siliguri, July 18: Three abductions by suspected Bihar-based gangs in a month, one of which ended with the murder of a Siliguri gold trader, has made the business community sit up in north Bengal.

Between July 2 and July 13, two traders and a teacher were kidnapped by the gangs. In the first two cases — the kidnappings happened on July 2 and 4 — the victims were released reportedly after payment of ransom. The third victim was killed and dumped near Barauni in Bihar.

Police sources said that though the gangs operated from Bihar, they had their informers in several parts of north Bengal. Most of the informers have a history of petty crimes. The police would try to keep tabs on their activities, the source said.

“There have been incidents of abduction for ransom in north Bengal in the early years of last decade. The trend had stopped because of stringent police action and over past few years, there had not been any such incident,” said Biswajit Das, the general secretary of the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, North Bengal.

“But the recent incidents, particularly the murder of Ramashray Saraf, a prominent jeweller of Siliguri, has left us concerned. We have learnt through media reports that the police have nabbed some of the people involved in the case.”

“We have made it clear to our members that they should not move alone and have at least one person with them. They should refrain from visiting unknown places and must keep their family and acquaintances informed about his activities,” said Praveen Jhawar, the general secretary of Siliguri Merchants’ Association.

Anuj Sharma, the inspector-general of police (north Bengal), said. “It is unfortunate that the businessman was killed. Police are vigilant and working consistently to track such gangs.”

On July 2, Bharat Prasad Gupta, a hardware merchant in Islampur, was abducted. He was found in adjoining Kishanganj in Bihar the next day. Police confirmed the family had paid ransom. One person was arrested and the police said he was in contact with a gang in Bihar, though nothing much could be got from him by way of information.

On July 4, Mohammad Habib, a schoolteacher, was abducted from Islampur. About a week later, he was found in Falakata. His wife claimed she paid a Rs 20-lakh ransom.

On July 13, Ramashray Saraf was kidnapped on Siliguri’s outskirts. A demand for a Rs 10-lakh ransom was made but the man was murdered and dumped near Barauni in Bihar days later.

IG Sharma said: “We maintain regular contact with Bihar police and exchange information. Our officers act promptly in case of any such crime and in the Siliguri incident, they could nab three persons.”