The guns seized at Howrah station on Wednesday. Picture by Gopal Senapati
A youth carrying 17 pistols in a jute bag wriggled free from the grasp of two railway police constables and outran them at Howrah station on Wednesday morning.
“He was a sprightly lad, 21 or 22 years old. He was too fast for us,” said Tapan Ghosh, one of the constables who had stopped the youth carrying the consignment of one shots at gate No. 9 of the station around 6am.
After shaking off his shawl, which the two cops had grabbed, the youth ran down the stairs of the subway, leaving the bag. “He was running so fast that we realised it was useless to chase him,” said the constable, who is in his mid-40s like his partner T.S. Banerjee.
The youth still had to cover 75 metres in the sparsely crowded subway before he could exit through one of the seven gates — three leading to Howrah bridge, two to the stand for Calcutta-bound buses and two to the stand for Howrah-bound buses. Once outside, he probably did not have any problem in melting into the crowd.
Senior RPF officers found nothing wrong in constables giving up the chase early. “There was no dereliction of duty by the RPF personnel. The arms smuggler fled when they were about to check the jute bag in which he was carrying the guns. The cops tried to stop him but he disappeared in the crowd,” said senior divisional security commander Aroma Singh Thakur.
“I spoke to the Howrah police commissioner and asked for his help in arresting the smuggler. He will not be able to go far,” she said, adding that she had checked the security camera footage of the incident.
The youth could not be arrested till late on Wednesday. The police said the one shots he was carrying were from illegal arms factories in Bihar’s Munger.
According to the RPF, the youth arrived at the station by the Down Jamalpur Express around 5.10am. “He hung around on the platform for some time. Seeing him move suspiciously, we decided to check his jute bag. As soon as we stopped him, he dropped the bag and ran,” said Ghosh.
On condition of anonymity, an RPF officer said constables lacked the fitness needed to man an important gateway like Howrah station as “most of them skip regular drill and parade”.
“If the constables had walkie-talkies, they could have informed the cops outside about the youth, increasing chances of him getting caught,” said an officer.