//Phoolan Devi murder prime accused held

Phoolan Devi murder prime accused held

Staff Reporter, The Hindu

Delhi police catch up with Sher Singh Rana in Kolkata two years after his sensational escape from Tihar Jail

CAPTURED: Phoolan Devi murder case prime accused Sher Singh Rana in police custody in Delhi on Tuesday. – PHOTO: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY.

NEW DELHI: Phoolan Devi murder case prime accused Sher Singh Rana, who scripted a most daring escape from the heavily guarded Tihar Central Jail here two years ago, has been arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi police at Dharamtalla in Kolkata.

Announcing this at a press conference here on Tuesday, Delhi Police Commissioner K. K. Paul said the Special Cell had recently despatched over two-dozen policemen to Kolkata to conduct searches following a tip-off that Rana had been spotted several times in the Dharamtalla area. "On Monday evening, during a heavy downpour, the police team finally traced Rana to a public phone booth he used to frequent and overpowered him.”

At Rana’s instance, the police purportedly recovered from his hotel room a passport bearing his photograph but issued in the name of Sanjay Gupta and a satellite phone he had bought at Dhaka in Bangladesh. He was brought to Delhi by air around midnight. During interrogation, Rana purportedly revealed that after escaping from Tihar Jail on February 17, 2004, with the help of his friend Sandeep — who in a police uniform took Rana’s custody from the jail authorities on the pretext of taking him to a Hardwar court for production in a case — he went to Moradabad where he checked into a hotel. He then contacted his relatives who sent him Rs. 1 lakh through Sandeep. Subsequently, he told the police, he went to Ranchi where he applied for a passport in the name of Sanjay Gupta.

It took him about two months to obtain the passport, Rana told the police, adding that during this period he visited Gaya and Varanasi, where he met his "financer" Subhash Thakur, who was then lodged in a local jail.

After getting his passport, Rana went to Kolkata where he obtained a three-month visa for Bangladesh and crossed over by road.

Rana claimed that he took a house on rent at Khulna and lived there posing as Sanjay. After a while, he took a flight from Dhaka to Dubai, from where he went to Kabul in Afghanistan. He claimed his motive in visiting Afghanistan was "to trace the grave of the great warrior Prithviraj Chauhan and bring his mortal remains back to India". Interestingly, Rana then went to Kandahar, Heratt and then to Gazni.

He claimed that he found the grave, dug it up under cover of darkness, packed some of the exhumed material in a bag, and couriered it to a contact in Uttar Pradesh. Rana then returned to Dhaka via Dubai. He told the police that he would come to Kolkata often to get his visa extended. At times he got it done in Dhaka. About a fortnight ago he entered India and after getting the visa extended for six months checked into Blue Moon Hotel at Dharamtalla on April 20. He told the police that he was to leave for Bangladesh in a couple of days.

"We have already arrested five persons — Sandeep, Vikram Rana, Sunil, Shravan and Subhash Thakur — for helping Rana escape from prison and evade detection," said Dr. Paul.

Rana allegedly had gunned down "Bandit Queen" Phoolan Devi outside her Ashoka Road residence – allotted to her as a Samajwadi Party Member of Parliament — in New Delhi on July 25, 2001. Subsequently he had surrendered in Dehra Dun amid heavy media presence. Rana claimed that he eliminated Phoolan Devi to avenge the killing of his clan members by her when she was a bandit.