Early this month, my sister Renuka's Mitsubishi Pajero was stolen from her building's compound. A compound ought to be secure, but for some reason this one has a gate at the back. The guard was hanging out, or napping, at the front door while thieves managed to break into the car and drive it out the back gate.
By the time the robbery was discovered at least five hours had passed and the thieves could easily have been at the state's border. It was pretty devastating. Renuka and my brother-in-law Ashutosh filed a complaint, but the police said a professional gang had been targetting Pajeros for four years and chances of the SUV being found were slim.
Then, a week ago, Renuka received a call from Jalpaiguri police station saying they had her car. Jalpaiguri is on the Nepal / Bhutan border, so the thieves apparently aimed to drive it right out of India. They'd crossed a dozen states seemingly without hassle, but were stopped in West Bengal by cops who felt they didn't appear to have the means to be driving an SUV. They asked the men, one Nepali, one Bihari, for their papers, which were not in order. They searched the car and found, wait for it, the car's original license plates in the dickey. Guys who couldn't throw out license plates were unlikely to have erased chassis numbers. The police traced the Mitsubishi dealer through the vehicle identification number; the dealer gave them my sister's contact. And so it was that, out of the blue, Renuka got a call that lifted the depression which had hung about her house for two weeks.
Maybe the thieves believed they could bribe their way out of any tough spot. Maybe the police were more alert and more honest because West Bengal's administration has just changed after 34 years of Communist rule. Whatever the story behind their arrest, it was very nice of the robbers to preserve evidence of their crime, and to keep it in the first place anybody would look.
The car hasn't actually been returned yet. After impounding it, the Jalpaiguri police asked for the original FIR to be faxed to them. The Versova cops reluctantly agreed to do it, but then forgot, or decided that helping to convict criminals was not part of their job description. Finally, Ashutosh faxed his own copy of the complaint, and that should hopefully do the trick.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has shown the world exactly how incompetent it is by making public a list of terrorists and criminals it claims are being sheltered by Pakistan, only for the media to discover one fearsome militant hanging out in a suburb of Bombay, and another lodged in Arthur Road jail. No doubt more of the missing terrorists will soon be found in plain sight. When I read stories like this, I wonder how police manage to catch any criminals at all. Well, the story of my sister's car indicates that, if our cops are dumb, our thieves are often dumber.