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Thursday , July 28 , 2011
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Horror run with gun and gag
‘I almost screamed but...’

The last thing Subhalakshmi Bhattacharya would have been prepared for as she opened the bathroom door to step into her bedroom was a gun to her head.

Subhalakshmi, an English teacher at Salt Lake’s Hariyana Vidya Mandir, recounts to Metro how four armed robbers held her and an elderly help hostage for 45 minutes in their Ultadanga apartment on Wednesday afternoon while her asthmatic mother-in-law lay lifeless on the living room floor.

It was around 1.35pm. I had returned home from school barely 25 minutes earlier and was having a shower (she was to leave for Ballygunge) when I heard the doorbell ring. I didn’t bother hurrying out to see who it was, knowing that my mother-in-law would answer the bell.

Subhalakshmi Bhattacharya at Maniktala police station. (Tamaghna Banerjee)
Subhalakshmi’s husband Surya Narayan after his arrival from Chennai and the family’s help Bina Ganguly. (Anindya Shankar Ray and Tamaghna Banerjee)

Our maid Bina (Ganguly) was in the other bathroom; so she didn’t know either who was at our door.

When I stepped out of my bathroom five minutes later, I was shocked to find a stranger in my bedroom brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot if I uttered a word. My first reflex would have been to scream, but for his stern order and the look in his eyes. He seemed to be in his twenties and I couldn’t recollect ever seeing him before.

As the youth held the gun to my head, another man wielding a knife walked in and pushed me towards the wall. “Kono checha-mechi korle ekhuni mere debo (if you scream, I will shoot straightaway),” the youth with the gun repeated.

I obeyed them. They tied my hands behind my back and made me sit on the floor of my bedroom. Just as I was wondering what had happened to my mother-in-law and our elderly help, in walked two more youths dragging Bina at gunpoint. They had gagged her as well.

I almost screamed for help as they hit and pushed her, but I was again silenced by the sight of the knife-wielding youth threatening to attack me. They made Bina sit beside me after tying her hands behind her back with a pair of trousers.

Then began the looting. The gang had asked for the keys to the wardrobes and other storage cabinets, at which I pointed in the direction of the place where the key to the lone locked cabinet was kept.

For 45 minutes, they ransacked our home with the youth holding the gun keeping an eye on Bina and me. They picked up anything of value they could lay their hands on — ornaments, cash, showpieces, watches and cellphones.

Their operation over, the quartet came to Bina and me and asked us to stay silent after they walked out of the apartment. “Aamra pasher ghorei achhi…. Jodi kono awaaj korish tokhuni eshe mere debo. Ekdom chup kore boshe thak (we are in the adjacent flat…. If you make a noise, we will come and kill you instantly. Sit here quietly),” one of them warned.

After the gang had left (around 2.15pm), Bina managed to extricate her hands and untie mine. I contemplated shouting for help, but the thought of the robbers watching us from the adjacent flat held me back. I ran to the main door and bolted it.

As I turned, there lay my mother-in-law on her stomach near the kitchen. Her hands were tied and a piece of cloth had been stuffed into her mouth. I untied her and shook her, thinking she was unconscious. But she did not respond.

I crawled towards the balcony, from where I spotted our driver Mihir Kumar Barui standing near the car. I gestured for help.

He ran up the stairs and unlocked the door, which the robbers had bolted from the outside.

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