Car gets conks out in heavy rain, no one helped family stranded at night

A Bangalore family returning from Dharmasthala were robbed by armed gang while they waited for help to fix their car that had broken down in the middle of the Shiradi Ghat in Sakleshpur early Monday.

S. Akash (32), a network engineer with IBM, and his parents Srinath Rao (70) and Radha Rao (66) left Bangalore on Friday on a pilgrimage. After visiting Sringeri and Dharmasthala, they headed for Bangalore on Sunday night at around 9.30 p.m. By the time the family reached the Gundya forest area to drive through the Shiradi Ghat, it was raining heavily.

Mr. Akash decided to follow a bus but after covering some distance, the car became mired in slush. A passing car helped extricate it but after it developed a problem. Mr. Akash managed to drive in first gear but when it reached the middle of the ghat, the car stopped. It was around 1 a.m. The family tried to flag down passing vehicles, but no one stopped. With no option left, they parked on roadside and decided to sleep.

‘Do you need help?’

Around 4.30 a.m., Mr. Rao, who was awake, noticed a van stopping a little away. Two men got down, had a smoke, walked towards the car asked if he needed help.

“They posed themselves as good samaritans and advised us not to stop in the middle of the forest, warning us of dangers from dacoits and naxals. But when Akash told them the car broke down, they called two others who soon joined them,” Mr. Rao told The Hindu. “While one of them asked Akash to try and start the car, another pulled out a pistol, pointed it at Akash’s and asked us to handover the valuables. ‘We are very bad people and won’t even hesitate to kill, so you all hand over your valuables without resisting’, one of them shouted,” Mr. Rao said.

When Mr. Rao pretended he could not remove his favourite gold ring, they warned they would cut off his finger. At this, he handed it over. Next, they asked Ms. Radha for her gold. She removed her gold chain and a pair of bangles but refused to part with her mangalsutra, saying she would rather die than part with it. The four robbers acquiesced to that. In all, they got away with valuables worth Rs. 1.5 lakh. “Luckily we did not carry hard cash as we used debit cards,” Mr. Rao said.

In the meanwhile, a KSRTC bus passed by but did not stop. The robbers left soon after snatching the car key. The traumatised family hailed a passing lorry whose driver readily agreed to tow them. By then a group of five men in another car approached them. Initially the family thought it was another robber gang but their fears were belied. With kind words and moral supply, topped by a good supply of coffee and snacks, they helped the Rao family call the Sakleshpur police.

The police later took the family and their luggage to the police station while deputing a constable to be near the car till it was towed to the station. They also summoned a mechanic who repaired the car.

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