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Cuffs on train hijacker

Dhanbad, March 21: A wanted criminal, who was on the run after throwing red chilli powder into the eyes of policemen and hijacking the train in which he was being taken to a jail in Chhattisgarh last month, was nabbed in Dhanbad yesterday.

Upendra Singh (50), alias Ramesh Singh, alias Kabra, who was carrying Rs 1 lakh cash award on his head, was staying as a tenant at the house of Balwant Singh Chabra in Gandhi Nagar locality under Dhansar police station.

Police also arrested Upendra’s son Pritam Singh following a raid around 7pm by separate teams led by Baghmara DSP Sanjeev Kumar and DSP (law and order) Amit Kumar.

A native of Gaya in Bihar, Upendra is an accused in several cases of abduction, murder or both in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

He was held in Bilaspur on April 10 last year along with 23 others for kidnapping and extorting Rs 40 lakh from Jaichand Vaid, a petrol bunk owner in the Chhattisgarh district.

On February 6, a head constable and two constables were returning with him in the Gondia-Durg Janshatabdi Express after he was produced at a court in Durg to Bilaspur jail. Upendra, who had asked a few accomplices to get onboard to help him rescue, threw red chilli powder into the eyes of the policemen.

With help from his aides, he then virtually controlled the train’s movement, forcing the driver at gunpoint to let him disembark after covering 10km. He got down near Kaivalyadham in Chhattisgarh, where a car was waiting.

Upendra was also involved in the abduction of Dev Kumar Singh, a Bokaro hotelier and close kin of Jharia MLA Kunti Singh from the city in 1999. He had also extracted a ransom of around Rs 60 lakh.

Dhanbad SP Ravikant Dhan termed his arrest a big achievement. After producing the father-son duo in the court of the chief judicial magistrate today, police handed them over in transit remand to a 25-member team from Chhattisgarh led by Bhilai DSP Ravindra Upadhayay.

Upadhyay said Singh had been awarded life imprisonment in the abduction of Jaichand Vaid.

Police have also apprehended Chabra for providing refuge to Upendra.

“A decision with regard to the possible arrest of Chabra will be taken by Chhattisgarh police,” said Dhan.

Sources said that Dhanbad policemen were tipped off about Upendra by their counterparts in Chhattisgarh after the location of the criminal’s mobile phone tower was tracked to Gandhinagar yesterday afternoon.

Dhanbad police immediately constituted two crack teams.

Two policemen in plainclothes first visited the neighbourhood and identified the house.

Nirsa inspector Raj Kapur was given the task of confirming Chabra’s presence in his house. Kapur struck up a conversation in Punjabi with Chabra over phone and asked for a room on rent to set up a shop.

Chabra told Kapur that he was not at home but police had information that he had a pet. While talking to him over phone, the inspector heard a dog barking that confirmed Chabra was lying.

A large posse of policemen in plainclothes soon arrived in the neighbourhood around 6.30pm. Half an hour later, the police teams raided the house and finally caught up with Upendra and his son Pritam.

Upendra today said he was engaged in coal trade in Bermo area of Bokaro till 2011. After suffering losses and following disputes with business partners, he moved to Chhattisgarh and took resort to crime, he claimed.

Cosmetic products which Upendra used to colour his skin, being a victim of vitiligo that leads to white spots on the body, were also recovered by police.