| The police camp. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, July 9: Fifty .303 cartridges were looted from a police camp here last night.
Of the seven constables posted at the camp in Lakshmighat village, 25km from here, only two were present when a gang of unidentified men raided the primary school at 10pm.
The constables claimed that because of the darkness — the gang had cut the power lines — it was impossible for them to make out the number of assailants.
“It was very dark. Somebody just covered my mouth and beat me up. I could not see if anybody else was there. The cartridges were kept in a steel box and the man took the entire container. My colleague was in the kitchen,” recounted Sambhu Ghosh in front of the additional police superintendent, Sujit Sarkar, who visited the spot this afternoon to conduct inquiries.
Sarkar said preliminary investigations have shown that looting had been “carefully planned”.
The camp in charge, Nripen Roy, said while two policemen had gone to town, three were out patrolling. “I was one of them. But two others were at the camp, cooking dinner,” said Sarkar.
The district police have registered a case with the Englishbazar police station. The police superintendent of Malda, Dilip Mondal, said he was not ruling out the hand of KLO or Maoists.
“But at the same time we are trying to find out if the policemen on duty were negligent,” said Mondal.
The incident, however, has not gone down well with villagers who believe that there is more to the story than meets the eye.
“I live right next to the camp. How is it I didn’t hear anything' The policemen did not even raise an alarm after the dacoits slipped away,” said Jahanara Begum, the panchayat pradhan of Narhatta under which this village falls.
Not only that, some villagers alleged, that the incident only proves that the camp is not serving its purpose.
“The camp was set up in the primary school on June 19 after a spate of looting and dacoity in Amriti, Narhatta, Phulbaria and Lakhsmighat. In summer, mango orchard owners move about with a lot of cash and are often attacked by robbers. In one such incident, on June 14, a mango trader, Maqbool Husain, was killed,” said a resident of Lakshmighat on conditions of anonymity.
The panchayat pradhan said despite the camp, Ahir Sheikh, another mango trader, was robbed and seriously injured by a gang of dacoits last Thursday. “Now the police are harassing the innocent villagers, by searching their houses repeatedly,” she said.
The combing operation, however, has not yielded any result. Not a single cartridge has been found. A large police contingent is patrolling the area.
Sources in the police said the .303 rifle cartridges are sold for Rs 500 a piece in criminal dens and are used in improvised firearms.