The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sikkim wakes up to tragic tale
- Shocked into numbness

Gangtok, March 11: The young bride stared in shocked silence.

The just-over-a-month-old wife of Constable Karma Bhutia found it unbelievable. As others in the family wailed over Bhutia’s death, the 24-year-old wondered why fate had been so cruel to her.

Bhutia, a resident of Rabongla in South Sikkim, was one of the five India Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel who were gunned down by a colleague at a Dena Bank branch in Daryaganj, New Delhi, this morning. All of them were part of the four IRB companies posted in the capital on deputation under the ministry of home affairs to maintain law and order. The fifth company is deployed in Sikkim to guard the NHPC projects.

The hill state today woke up to the shocking news as television channels broke it in the early hours. With worried families calling up New Delhi for confirmation, a few of them had their worst fears coming true.

In Rongyek, above Gangtok, a pall of gloom had descended on Santabir Tamang’s house. The 28-year-old had returned to duty on February 16, promising his family that he would come home during the Pujas.

Youngest of four brothers, the lance naik is survived by his 20-year-old wife Sumitra, a month-and-a-half-old son and a mother who is 82.

“He used to call home regularly and was very happy. We can’t believe what has happened,” said Sumitra.

The names of the killed personnel (besides Bhutia and Tamang) — Lance Naik Vishal Tiwari, a resident of Temi Tarku, Lance Naik Kumar Basnett of Mamley Bustee near Namchi and Constable Laxman Subba of Temi — were confirmed in the afternoon by the deputy-inspector-general of police (range) Akshay Sachdeva.

Before the circumstances that led to the killings — an alleged sodomy attempt — became clear, Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling had already announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of each of the deceased.

“We are sad because our own people have died. This is an isolated and stray incident,” Sachdeva said.

He said after post-mortem, the bodies will be brought down to Sikkim by the government. “They will then be handed over to the families,” he added.

A communication from Chamling’s office said the chief minister has expressed deep shock and anguish at the tragic incident. He also said the Sikkim IRB, along with the Sikkim Police and Sikkim Armed Police, was a very disciplined force and has over the years distinguished itself while discharging its duties.

Nari Lepcha, the accused constable, is a resident of Nampong-Lingdok in East Sikkim while Jai Bahadur Subba, the constable who was earlier the suspect, is from Maneybong, Uttarey, in West Sikkim.

The Sikkim director general of police, C.M. Ravindran, and the deputy inspector-general and the commandant of the Sikkim Armed Police, Sudhakar Rao, had left for Delhi in the morning.

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