Maliapota (Nadia), Dec. 27: Heightened vigil following evidence of alleged ISI activities in parts of Murshidabad and Nadia bordering Bangladesh was the main reason behind the looting of the Catholic church here during midnight mass on Tuesday, intelligence sources said.
“The criminals who indulged in cross-border smuggling had been hit hard by the border alert and the close check on activities in the adjoining areas. So they struck on the soft target with a well-planned operation,” said an officer inquiring into the raid in which cash and jewellery worth lakhs were looted from the church.
Pointing out that there was evidence of Bangladeshi criminals taking part in the looting by a gang of around 40 armed men, the officer said the smugglers who received the goods on the other side of the border had also been badly affected by the vigil.
Intelligence branch sources said the heist was planned well in advance. The church is located on the transit route the touts and the smugglers use for their cross-border crimes.
Maliapota is 3 km from the Bangladesh border and is between Krishnagar and Karimpur, the hub of smuggling activities, the sources said.
Howlia, a village located merely a kilometre from the border, is the citadel of all cross-border business in the region. “Not only from Nadia but cattle, salt, clothes, medicines and other items from all over Bengal come to Howlia to be smuggled across the border,” the sources said.
Officials sounded a warning today against more daring dacoities.
An official of the Catholic church in Maliapota confirmed that there were Bangladeshis among the looters. “You can hide your identity, but not the language you got by birth,” he said.
Inspector-general of police, south Bengal, N.R. Das had to face irate villagers when he came here today. “We want justice, we want our money back,” the crowd surrounding the officer shouted.
The villagers, who trusted the church more than the far-away bank for the safe-keep of their savings, had lost about everything they had in the looting.
Das also went to adjacent Putimari and Malipal, which were subjected to a series of dacoities in the past month. He assured the residents that crime would be controlled in the border villages. “From now on, it will be of topmost priority on my agenda,” said Das.
The police, however, were tight-lipped about the arrests made in connection with the church heist. “I do not have any information about any further arrests,” said J.P. Singha Roy, the Nadia superintendent of police.
The priests in the church seemed satisfied with the assurances of the visiting police officers. “I have full faith in the police and the administration,” said Father Abraham, the church head.