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In temple town, hotel hideouts

Shyamal Karmakar, the prime accused in the murder of anti-hooch campaigner Sourav Chowdhury at Bamungachhi in North 24-Parganas, was hiding at a hotel in Tarapith, a little over 200km by road from Calcutta, before his arrest.

Police were worried about fugitive criminals taking shelter in the temple town that attracts about 10,000 pilgrims a day to its popular Kali shrine. Given the inflow of faithful, about 500 hotels have sprung up within the township and its neighbourhood.

An officer said the police have arrested at least 20 wanted persons from various hotels in Tarapith over the past five years.

He said hotel owners have been asked to be alert and maintain proper records of their guests, such as copies of photo identity documents like PAN card, voter ID card, passport or any other official document along with their phone numbers.

“We had asked them to show their occupancy register every day to the local police station but only a few hotels were doing that. After Shyamal’s arrest (on Tuesday night at the gates of Rampurhat railway station), we have decided to call a meeting with the hotel owners and ask them to strictly follow the security guidelines,” he said.

Sub-divisional police officer Koteswara Rao warned that they would “have to think of ways to take action” if the hotel owners failed to heed their advice.

Police sources said 36-year-old Shyamal shaved off his hair and holed up in a Tarapith hotel with an associate after college student Sourav’s murder.

Shyamal had apparently told the police that he stayed at Lodge Tara, but no hotel by that name exists in Tarapith.

“There are 11 hotels with the word Tara in their name in Tarapith. After the arrest of Shyamal, our teams searched every hotel named Tara, or even those sounding similar to Tara, but nowhere did they find Shyamal’s name or any guest that fitted his description,” the officer said.

“We are trying to find out the hotel or lodge Shyamal had taken shelter in,” he added.

Biman Chatterjee, the president of the Trinamul-affiliated Tarapith Hotel Owners’ Association, said: “Shyamal was arrested at Rampurhat railway station. We don’t know in which hotel he stayed but we always ask our members to take identity papers from guests and send daily reports to the police. If a hotel owner fails to follow the guideline, we will not support him.”

Sources said the police were concerned that Shyamal, who allegedly ran the hooch dens against which Sourav had led a crusade, chose Tarapith as a hiding place like those 20 suspected criminals arrested at hotels here.

The town was in the news when three persons, including a nanny, was arrested on April 8, 2010, in connection with the kidnapping of a six-year-old girl from Calcutta. The trio stayed in a hotel and called the parents asking for a ransom of Rs 25 lakh.

Calcutta police tracked their calls, traced them to Tarapith and rescued the girl. The hotel they checked into had not taken any identity proof from them.

In the same month, three youths from Singur in Hooghly were nabbed in a Tarapith hotel where they were hiding after pocketing lakhs of rupees from job-seekers who were promised employment in the air force and navy.

Mangal Sahani, the prime accused in the Renu Sarkar murder case in Santiniketan, was arrested at a Tarapith hotel in January 2012.