In a shootout between the police and some gangsters inside the Eastern Railway godown adjacent to Howrah station, criminal Sushil Sau was shot dead early on Wednesday.
Superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said Sau, along with a dozen henchmen, had climbed the boundary walls of the godown while it was still dark and entered the complex.
“Railway Protection Force (RPF) commandos, carrying automatic weapons, guard the godown. The goods stocked there are estimated to be worth a crore of rupees,’’ he said.
A commando spotted the youths moving around and ordered them to identify themselves and surrender. He warned his colleagues about the intruders over the wireless. Realising that the RPF had got wind, Sau and his accomplices hid behind thick bushes and eight-foot-high heaps of scrap.
The godown stands on 30 acres and the RPF commandos, flashing searchlights, began the hunt for the intruders. After playing cat-and-mouse for half an hour, the criminals were pushed to the backyard. Police said they began to throw stones and bombs at the commandos. Inspector-general of RPF, B.F. Pasha, said they had spread over a few yards. Even while they were retreating, throwing bombs and shooting from improvised firearms, four or five of the criminals tried to carry off expensive teakwood.
The commandos were unprepared for the intensity of the bomb attack. But they took up positions and opened fire from their automatic weapons.
The shootout lasted 20 minutes. “They had stopped throwing bombs. Our men waited for a few minutes and then moved into their shelter,’’ said a senior RPF officer, who conducted a preliminary inquiry.
The cops found a bleeding youth lying there. “He had a wallet in his pocket. We checked it to identify him as Sushil Sau. He was taken to hospital, where doctors declared him dead. His accomplices managed to escape,’’ the officer added.
The RPF said its commandos fired two rounds but sources in the senior commandant's office at Howrah station said more than a dozen rounds were fired.
Howrah police described Sau as a “sharp-shooter with 14 cases of dacoity, gun-running and rioting at Golabari, Howrah town, Shibpur”, and other neighbouring police stations. Howrah’s superintendent of police said the godown was a “happy hunting ground for criminals”.