The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhantola trio in custody

Burdwan, March 4: Police in Kalna near here today claimed to have arrested three men who have confessed to have been part of the gang that looted and “raped” several passengers of two buses returning from wedding receptions in Nadia’s Dhantola on the night of February 6.

Police sources in Kalna said Putu and Parimal Sardar were arrested on Friday when they were looting trucks on the Kalna-Pandua road. They apparently confessed during interrogation that they were part of the gang involved in the Dhantola incident that sent shockwaves across the state and generated howls of protest.

Following leads provided by Putu and Parimal, another alleged member of the gang, Kamal Sardar, was picked up from Bagda in North 24-Parganas.

Special superintendent of the criminal investigation department (CID) Ramphal Pawar arrived in Kalna yesterday. The CID wants the district police to hand over those arrested as it is investigating the Dhantola case.

The police said after the CID obtains the court’s go-ahead to take the trio in its custody they will be taken to Ainsmali in Dhantola, where their statements will be recorded.

“They (Putu and Parimal) told us that they raped a woman and Cheema Sardar, who was with them, raped another woman. Their statements have been recorded before the magistrate in Kalna,” said a senior police officer.

Two wristwatches were recovered from Putu and Parimal. They also told the police that they had set off with two others on February 28 to loot about 20 trucks on the Kalna-Pandua road.

On sighting a local resistance group, two of them fled. Putu and Parimal were chased by the group and thrashed before being handed over to the police.

“While interrogating the duo, we got wind of their involvement in the Dhantola incident. They told us that they were ‘hired’ to commit a dacoity in Nadia. Soon we got to know that they had also raped the women in one of the buses,” the officer said.

The police are on the lookout for the entire gang of 15, which “specialises” in looting buses and trucks in Nadia, North 24-Parganas and Burdwan.

Though the three arrested men are yet to point at the involvement of any political party, the police believe the details of “the total plan” may not have been revealed to them.

The police have so far arrested 21 people in connection with the incident, including Subol Bagchi, a primary school teacher and zonal committee member of the CPM in Ainsmali, and Saidul Karigar, a former panchayat pradhan of the party.

Twenty days after the incident, in its first public reaction to what happened in Dhantola, the West Bengal Women’s Commission had said six women, including four minor girls, were raped or molested during the loot.

One of the bus drivers was shot dead when he recognised some of the miscreants.

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