The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Siliguri child gang in net for robbery

Siliguri, July 12: Unlike children of his age, nine-year-old Piku Das does not drink milk. Instead, he is a chain cigarette and bidi smoker, often drinks alcohol and uses marijuana. Son of a poor rickshaw-puller, he steals to sustain his lifestyle.

Police today arrested Piku and 10-year-old Gopal Mondol for stealing cash worth Rs 20,000 and gold jewellery worth Rs 15,000 from retired railway employee Baidyanath Roy’s house in Uttar Bharat Nagar here yesterday.

Three others, Bapi Das, Mohan Pal and Sukhen Saha — all teenagers — were also arrested. Though not directly involved in the robbery, they had kept the money stolen by Piku and Gopal, a Class IV student at a local school.

Bapi even fulfilled his dream of owning a mobile phone by buying himself a natty Nokia handset with the spoils.

Police recovered Rs 15,000 and gold ornaments from the children. Two gold chains are still missing. “Children often indulge in petty crime. But this is the first time we are seeing children of such tender age involved in such criminal activity,” additional superintendent of police Rajeev Mishra said.

“Yesterday’s robbery took place between five and seven in the evening when the members of the house were away. The smallest members of the gang, Piku and Gopal, entered the house through the ventilator and exited the same way after gathering the valuables. In a smart move, the duo, who shared some of the booty, gave the (rest of the) money to the other three to keep… Going by the manner the robbery was executed, it seems they are experienced in crime,” Mishra said.

Police are trying to find out if the children have links with adult gangs. “It is quite likely that they are being used by some organised cartels. Though we have not got any such clues from preliminary investigations, we are working on that angle,” he said.

When asked why they stole, the children kept silent.

Piku does not conceal the fact that he chain-smokes. “One dada who comes to our house regularly taught me to smoke and I got addicted to it,” he says.

Parents of the child robbers said they were not aware of the activities of their children as they are out the whole day working to make ends meet.

(The names of the children have been changed to protect their identities.)

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