In a major breakthrough, the Alipurduar District police under North Bengal recently arrested eight people responsible for robbing Bhutanese passengers along a deserted highway.
The police has also seized and impounded some Maruti vans used by the eight in their highway robbing operations.
Bhutan’s Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs was informed of the arrests by the North Bengal police and both sides are in communication and coordination on the issue.
The eight have confessed to fifteen instances of robbing Bhutanese travelers. According to official records in Bhutan only around seven had filed complaints mainly through Bhutanese authorities while the local media had reported around 10 cases.
The robberies took place in a deserted stretch of highway between Alipurduar Junction and the Hashimara Airforce base. The more specific location was a three kilometer stretch between Nimti and Alipurduar.
The modus operandi of the robbers was to overtake a lone Bhutanese vehicle and stop it , and then come out and rob the helpless Bhutanese passengers at knife point. The robbers usually travelled in group of five or eight. The group also usually struck during the latter half of the day.
It has been found that the members of the group were from the nearby areas of Madirahat and Falakata in North Bengal.
The robbers targeted the Bhutanese passengers for their money, jewellery, phones and other belongings.
This gang of robbers had started creating national headlines in Bhutan with their frequent raids on Bhutanese travelers travelling on that stretch of road.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs has issued some safety guidelines while travelling in the border areas.
The notification asks vehicles to travel in groups, avoid stops, avoid carrying lot of cash and expensive belongings and also to help other Bhutanese citizens if they are being robbed. The notification also gives a number of the local police control room number of 00913561225588 in case of mishaps.
The Bureau of Law and Order Director General Sonam Tobgay said, “We encourage people to file FIR reports with the nearest Indian police station because the police can only initiate actions once a FIR is filed.”
He said that the government had now come up with a facility of the Royal Bhutan Police helping victims to file FIR’s in Indian police stations.
The Director General said that people not filing complaints would only embolden robbers and not allow the police of both countries to build a strong case against them.
He also said that to make it easier for the Indian police to track down any robber, Bhutanese people should note and keep their International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. He said this can be done by self dialing *#06# on their phones after which their IMEI numbers would show on their phone. The Indian police can the track down the mobiles even if the robbers discard the Sim.
The Director General said that the Ministry was also exploring various options of opening ATMs and other facilities so that people do not have to carry so much cash.
Meanwhile the BLO is still awaiting the post mortem of the dead Indian maid from Samtse. The Director said that the post mortem done by the RBP and medical team in Bhutan had proved beyond an iota of doubt that it was a case of dendrite overdose and not rape and murder as rumored in the bordering area that lead to much violence and tension.
Alipurduar District was formed in June 2014 as it was earlier a sub-division under the Jalpaiguri District.
This new district borders Dzongkhags like Chukha, Samtse and Dagana and is under the West Bengal State.