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Gang robs Amritsar Mail passengers

- Victims allege absence of cops during raid

An armed gang of 20 robbed several passengers in two air-conditioned coaches of the Howrah-bound Amritsar Mail between Jhajha in Bihar and Jasidih in Jharkhand early on Tuesday.

At least 15 passengers travelling in B1 and B2 coaches said the gang had forced them to hand over mobile phones, jewellery and other valuables. According to a Government Railway Police source, the gang robbed valuables worth Rs 1 lakh.

The raid continued for half an hour, during which not a single cop was spotted, passengers alleged after the train reached Howrah station at 9.15am.

Geeta Kalian, 46, who was returning home to Howrah after attending a conference in Amritsar, said shrieks from fellow passengers jolted her out of her sleep.

I saw an armed gang robbing passengers. I was dead scared but managed to remove my rings and hide them under my pillow, recounted Kalian, who was travelling in B2.

She saw a burglar pointing a gun at Manish Dadlani, who was returning from the same conference. Unlike her, Dadlani had to part with his gold chain.

After a while robbers ordered the lights in the coach to be switched on so that they could see what the passengers were wearing.

After finishing with B2, the robbers moved to B1 but the passengers there had by then been alerted by the cries from the adjoining compartment and could hide their valuables. As a consequence, several of them were subjected to assaults by revolver butts and choppers.

One of the passengers, 70-year-old Mohanlal Rathi, said he got down from the upper berth when he saw some armed men ask his wife Chandrakanta to hand over her jewels.

A soon as I got off my berth, two robbers pointed their revolvers at my chest and head and said they would kill me if I stood in their way. I asked them to go ahead and kill me. Thats when they hit me on the right wrist with the butt of a revolver and tired to snatch my gold chain. I grabbed the chain and it broke. They got half of it, recounted Rathi, a resident of Metropolitan Housing Complex on EM Bypass.

He was returning home after attending a family function in Lucknow.

The way police and railway employees vanished during the robbery, it seems they were hand in glove with the gang, alleged a passenger, who did not wish to be named.

In long-distance trains like the Amritsar Mail, there are supposed to be five armed guards, who should space out evenly and patrol the train continuously.

Railway officials said on condition of anonymity that most often the guards sit together chatting or dozing, especially at night.

Eastern Railway officials said the passengers lodged a complaint at Jasidih station.

A probe has been started. The complaint was lodged by Kamalesh Kumar Gupta and seven others. They said they suspect a fellow passenger was part of the conspiracy, said a railway spokesperson.