Bishnu Shrestha being awarded a medal for his valor in resisting a September 2010 train robbery.
A few days ago I reported the remarkable story of Bishnu Shrestha, the Gurkha soldier who used his kukri to drive 40 robbers off a train in India, killing three and wounding eight. In early January, Shresta was awarded a medal for his valor during the incident, which occurred in September 2010.
An article shortly after the incident gives an account of events that differs in important respects from the one published recently. The earlier account describes Shresta inflicting severe wounds on three of the bandits before being overpowered and losing hold of his knife, which was then used against him. It also gives the number of bandits as 30, loses the (presumably gorgeous) 18-year-old girl seated next to him, and does not suggest that the bandits all fled the train after Shresta's attack. Did more facts about the incident come out between September and January--for example, did the three severely wounded men die and were eight others discovered to have been wounded? Or was the story revised to more closely fit the conventions of a Bollywood action movie? There is no doubt of Shresta's heroic efforts against the bandits, but I am presenting the earlier account below for purposes of comparison.
The Times of India
Soldier Takes on Dacoits on Train; Gang Of 30
TNN, Sep 4, 2010
KOLKATA/CHITTARANJAN: A Gorkha Rifles jawan [soldier] travelling on a train did not hesitate to take on a gang of 30 armed dacoits [bandits] singlehandedly, armed with just a khukri, when he saw them looting his fellow passengers. A GRP escort team posted on the train reportedly did nothing to stop the robbers on Maurya Express late on Thursday.
Nearly 30 armed dacoits looted cash and valuables worth 10 lakh [a lakh refers to a quantity of 100, 000, in this case ruppees] from passengers of Maurya Express between Kulti and Chittaranjan stations along the West Bengal-Jharkhand border on Thursday night.
The armed dacoits refused to mess with Vishnu Shresta when they came to know that he is a soldier, but the 45-year-old Gorkha Rifles jawan would not sit back and watch his fellow passengers being manhandled and looted. The fearless Gurkha pulled out his khukri and fell upon the dacoits till he was overpowered. After a hurried shot fired at him went astray, they used the same khukri to slash Shresta's wrist.
Shresta is posted at Ranchi and was proceeding on leave to Pokhra in Nepal. He boarded the Hatia-Gorakhpur Jn Maurya Express from Ranchi on Thursday evening. When the raid took place, he was fast asleep on his berth.
"Suddenly, there were shouts and the sound of running feet," Shresta recounted from his bed at Kasturba Gandhi Hospital in Chittaranjan. "Somebody pulled at my bedclothes. I sat up and found a number of people standing near my feet. They demanded that I hand over all my cash and valuables. There was confusion all around and I shouted that I am an Indian Army jawan. The criminals backed off and turned their attention to a woman and her child, who were on a berth close by," Shresta added.
He lost his cool when he saw a miscreant trying to pull out the girl, about 8 years old, from the berth and snatch a necklace from her mother.
"I am a soldier and get paid to protect citizens of this country. I could not sit back and watch as passengers were looted. I pulled out my khukri and attacked the criminals. Initially, they were taken by surprise and I succeeded in connecting with at least three of them. The blows were severe and they must have got themselves admitted to some hospital. By then, the criminals started fighting back. They fired a shot that missed me. At one point of time, the khukri fell from my hand and I was overpowered. They picked it up and used it on me," the jawan said.
After Shresta slumped to the ground, profusely bleeding from his wound, all fight went out from the other passengers. None of them dared to make eye contact with the criminals and did their bidding.
According to authorities, members of the gang were travelling on the train posing as passengers. Around 11.25 pm, about 10 minutes after the train left Kulti station, the criminals detached the vacuum hose between two coaches. This brought the train to a stop. While some dacoits entered S1, S2 and S3 coaches, others smashed the windows of the A1 and B1 air-conditioned compartments to gain entry.
"The miscreants were shouting in Hindi. When they asked us to hand over all our valuables, I gave them my purse and cellphone," said Nilu Verma, who was on her way to Lakhisarai from Katras. Ajay Srivastava was walking back to his berth from the toilet when he was accosted by the criminals. "One of them snatched my cellphone and asked me to hand over my wallet. As I took some time to react, he slapped me and snatched my belongings," said Srivastava, who was going to Muzaffarpur.
Anita Modi, on her way to Barauni, felt that the 15-20 minutes of terror would never come to an end. "Passengers were beaten up and abused. Even women were not spared. People were screaming but nobody came to our assistance. When the train reached Chittaranjan, we were feeling ill," she said.
Shresta said the criminals were in the late thirties and carrying various types of weapons, including guns, daggers and tangis. Strangely, railway staff on the train said they were not aware that passengers had been robbed till they reached Chittaranjan. "We shall discuss with the RPF and GRP on how to provide security on night trains in this stretch," said G C Roy, senior divisional commercial manager of Asansol.
Police succeeded in arresting six of the criminals and recovered a part of the booty later. A manhunt has been launched for the others. Asansol divisional railway manager Jagadanand Jha claimed that there was a GRP escort on the train, but the personnel did little to prevent the crime.