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Jharkhand robbery on train

Tanusree Sil recounts at Howrah station how a robber held a pistol to her head. Picture by Gopal Senapati

A gang of robbers wielding pistols and knives raided at least three coaches of the Bhopal-Howrah Express and robbed passengers of cash and other valuables in Jharkhand early on Thursday.

Railway officials said 10-12 robbers raided the coaches between Ranukut and Garhwa Road stations in Jharkhand, under Dhanbad railway division, around 2.30am. Passengers said no cop could be seen during the raid that continued till 3am.

Among those robbed were 15 Australian tourists.

A dacoit hit Obeidullah Sheikh, 42, who was travelling in S7 coach, on the head with the butt of a pistol when he tried to alert other passengers. Obeidullah, a resident of Mallickpur in South 24-Parganas, suffered a deep cut on the left side of his head.

Passengers demonstrated at Garhwa Road station after the Government Railway Police allegedly refused to register complaints. The train was stranded at the station for for around three hours and left only after the passengers lodged complaints.

The train arrived at Howrah around 7.20pm, four hours behind schedule.

Passengers said at least six of the dacoits were carrying pistols. “A commotion in the coach jolted me out of my sleep. I saw a few men, most of them dressed in khaki like cops, asking passengers to hand over all they had,” recounted Sheikh. He was part of a group of 40 people who had gone to Bhopal to take part in a religious conference.

“Two of them came to me and asked me to hand over all my cash and other valuables. I refused and shouted to alert other members of my group,” he said.

Hearing his scream, seven to eight dacoits rushed to his berth and one of them hit him on his head with the butt of his pistol. “I slumped and could feel blood trickle down my face. I helplessly watched the robbers ransack my bags and take away all the cash — around Rs 6,000 — and valuables,” he said.

Anita Sil, a resident of Subhasgram in South 24-Parganas, was travelling with husband Tapan and daughters Tanusree and Anusree in S5. She said a dacoit held a pistol to Tanusree’s head and asked the couple to hand over all cash and jewellery. “I cried and begged them not to harm my daughter. We gave them all the jewellery and the Rs 20,000 we were carrying,” she recounted.

The dacoits pulled the chain while the train was entering Garhwa Road station and fled.

“Since late evening, we did not see any cop in our coach. Many passengers without reservation were boarding the coach but there was no one to stop them,” alleged Mohammad Abdullah, an S6 passenger.

Railway officials, however, claimed there were “enough” RPF and GRP personnel on the train.

Sampat Meena, the railway IG in Jharkhand, said around 9.50pm that she was yet to hear about the dacoity.