The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Women, children bear loot brunt

Magrahat (South 24-Parganas) Jan. 10: A gang armed to the teeth looted more than 15 houses at Sarbanandapur this afternoon and assaulted villagers when they tried to resist.

The villagers alleged that the dacoits harassed women and beat up their children during a shocking spell of more than two hours.

What began as a bad dream when the gang descended on pick-up vans wielding pipe guns and revolvers only got worse with time. It ended when they decamped with a booty of jewellery and cash worth lakhs.

Villagers gheraoed the Magrahat police station and put up a roadblock demanding the arrest of the dacoits.

The district police have begun a massive search for the culprits. But no one was arrested till late night.

The dacoits first raided the house of Paritosh Pal, a schoolteacher. They broke open his main door when Pal refused to open it. The women in the family were not spared when they refused to part with their jewellery.

The children, who were crying in panic and at the sight of their mothers being tortured, were slapped and asked to shut up.

Before leaving the Pals the gang burst bombs to scare the rest of the village. Fourteen houses then experienced what the Pals did.

Namita Saha, a villager and block Trinamul Congress president, said the dacoits belonged to the gang of Selim, a notorious criminal now languishing in jail.

Earlier, the same gang had demanded money from the villagers but they refused to pay up, said Saha. “They had threatened to take action.”

“After they finished the looting spree, they threatened the villagers against uttering a word to the police. At a recent rally near here, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had requested people who had fled the village in fear of dacoits to come back and ‘live without fear’. He had also asked the local police stations to take stern action against the gangs operating here. But the dacoits didn’t bother much about all that. They looted us and hurt our women and children at will,” said Saha.

District superintendent of police Deb Kumar Ganguly said officers from Mograhat have fanned out in different parts of the district to trace the dacoits.

The sub-divisional police officer and circle inspector of Diamond Harbour rushed to the village for a thorough inquiry.

“We are sure that the dacoits had come from nearby areas. Most probably, they have not been able to go far,” said Ganguly. On the charges of molestation and beating children, he said: “I have asked my officers to talk to every member of all the houses to ascertain the exact the facts.”

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