The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bus loot-and-molest in Dhantola rerun

Calcutta, Aug. 10: Passengers of a mini bus on Diamond Harbour Road were looted and the women among them allegedly molested at Mograhat in South 24-Parganas.

The daring dacoity was carried out in daylight, around 10 in the morning. The looting continued for more than half-an-hour. But passengers said vehicles that went past their bus during the incident did not bother to stop. Some of them even saw a mobile police van go by. The cries of help, defying the scare of guns, did not reach it perhaps.

No arrests were reported till late this evening.

Police sources said a gang of 10 dacoits armed with revolvers and daggers targeted the bus, which was on its way from Amtala to Hotor in the district.

The dacoits decamped with cash and jewellery worth more than Rs 1 lakh, the police said. Passengers said the men were threatened and beaten up when they tried to resist and the women molested.

The bus was speeding past a deserted stretch of the road near Jhinkirhat when the driver had to slam the brakes on noticing a log blocking the way ahead of a sharp bend. As the bus screeched to a halt, armed youths crept out of roadside shrubs and moved in.

On the night of February 6, a gang of about 20 men had looted two buses returning from wedding receptions at Dhantola in Nadia. The men were forced onto the roofs at gun point and the women looted and tormented. Four minor girls were among the six women allegedly raped that night.

The driver of one of the buses was shot dead when he allegedly recognised one of the dacoits. A zonal CPM leader and a panchayat member of the party were arrested in connection with the incident.

Today, the dacoits had their faces covered with handkerchiefs. But the passengers said they seemed to be in their early 20s. “We could not recognise them as they were masked,” said Kalidas Mondal. The dacoits were “heavily armed”, added the passenger, still reeling with the shock.

“We were dumfounded and too terrorised to react. They started abusing us and beat up several passengers,” said Tapan Polley, the driver.

The police, the passengers said, arrived long after the gang had left.

Subdivisional police officer of Diamond Harbour Mehmood Akhtar said: “As soon as I heard about the dacoity, I asked the force to rush to the spot.”

Members of the gang of Salim, a notorious anti-social of the area who is now behind the bars, could be involved in the incident, the police said.

“The mode of operation suggests that Salim’s right-hand man, Kalo Masood, had led the gang. We are probing into the links,” said a senior police officer.

After the news spread, Diamond Harbour Road was blocked for more than an hour. Traffic on the busy road in the peak hour was thrown out of gear.

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