Jewellery heist and 40 thieves! Did tribal gang do it?

"The investigation has thrown up a lot of clues and we are hopeful of solving the case soon," A.K. Singh, inspector general of police, said here Monday, two days after the heist.
Though Singh was tightlipped about the investigation, police say the clues seem to point to the involvement of a tribal gang from Jhabua in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

Nearly 35 to 40 members of the gang descended on the K.M. Chokshi jewellery showroom in a crowded marketplace around 7.30 p.m. Saturday and within six minutes walked out with gold worth Rs.6 crore and Rs.25 lakh in cash.

The gang, which came on foot, defiantly walked out after the looting, firing a few shots in the air and made good its escape by melting into dense sugarcane plantations.
"Frantic calls to police by nervous bystanders failed to elicit any response. And by the time the police woke up to it, it was too late," said a member of the showroom owner's family, on condition of anonymity.

The gang members resembled the tribal labour that abounds in the area, working in sugarcane plantations. Due to this resemblance, they were able to reach the showroom unnoticed, police say.

The bustle of the jampacked bazaar was shattered when the gang let loose a barrage of stones, possibly picked up from the railway track and stashed in small bags. While half of them barged in after overpowering the two guards, the other half remained outside menacingly - spears, scythes and countrymade revolvers in hand - keeping the crowd at bay.

The gang had apparently done its homework well, for it attacked just when the ritual night stock taking was going on at the showroom. "It was therefore easy for them to get the entire stock at one go," a local police officer said, adding that one of the thieves put a revolver to the temple of the owner.

They were gone within minutes, firing in the air to scare away the crowd gathered outside. "It is only a matter of time before we get them," said a police official, pointing to the possibility of the thieves having distributed the loot and split into small groups of ones and twos to escape.

"The bag in which the stones were brought and jewellery carried away has been found in the fields," an investigator said. It is this bag that had an inscription of the Godhra flour mill.

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