It was exactly 1.45pm when Mukesh Kumar was taking his usual nap after lunch on his autorickshaw’s passenger seat. Kumar says what he saw next was a scene straight out of a Bollywood movie.
Like every day, the 35-year-old had parked his vehicle outside Gate Number 2 of Kendriya Vihar 2 society in Noida’s Sector 82, adjacent to an SBI ATM kiosk and right next to the under-construction inter-state bus terminal.
He said he was disturbed by a loud boomerang sound and as he woke up he thought that a vehicle’s tyre must have burst. In the next few seconds, he heard indiscriminate “pop-pop” sound and looked from behind the curtain of the auto-rickshaw’s side window.
“It was like they show in movies as two men wearing handkerchiefs hiding their faces were firing at the ATM kiosk indiscriminately while there was also interrupted firing from the other end of the kiosk,” said Kumar.
“A few seconds later, one of the men approached me, held a katta (country-made pistol) to my face, swore an expletive and asked me to run away. I jumped out of my auto and ran towards the side shelter of a nearby cigarette kiosk where the kiosk owner was also hiding,” he said.
Other eyewitnesses outside Kendriya Vihar 2 claimed Tuesday afternoon’s incident had never happened in this area in the past few decades.
Two men had approached an SBI ATM kiosk where a cash van had stopped to deposit money in the machine. They fired indiscriminately at the armed security guards and looted a cash bag containing Rs 40 lakh.
Eyewitnesses say that it was the sight of the shooting which terrified them.
“I was about to close my cigarette kiosk when the two men started shooting at the cash van guards. One of them yelled at me, asking me to run away. I held two bricks in my hand and took shelter behind the kiosk. They left the scene in a matter of minutes but we were left shaken after the incident,” said 36-year-old Suresh Prasad.
Indra Bahadur Singh, the 40-year-old security guard posted outside the ATM kiosk, said that it was a “real encounter” which went on for minutes.
“At least 12 rounds of fire were exchanged between the cash van guards and the robbers. I myself picked up eight bullet shells and submitted them to police,” said Singh.
The suspects then tried to flee on their motorcycle with the looted cash towards the busy Sector 110 market intersection rammed his vehicle into theirs. They lost their balance but managed to escape.
They then reached Sector 110 intersection on their motorcycle where a Wagon R car rammed them from behind. The men fell on the road along with the cash bag after the impact. Approximately Rs 20,35,000 fell from the bag as one of the suspects abandoned the motorcycle and escaped, while the other was apprehended.
At the intersection, kiosks and cart owners were hesitant before claiming that much of the money was looted by people present there.
Bhanu Chaubey, the security officer of Kendriya Vihar 2 Society, said he reached five minutes after the robbers fell off their motorcycle.
“… I reached the spot and noticed that few children were carrying bundles of Rs 500 notes. One of them was apprehended and he was found with Rs 75,000 cash. Many bundles fell in the drain,” said Chaubey.
Police have identified the arrested man as Nanhe, who is in his late 20s and a native of Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh.
“We recovered Rs19,65,000 from him, along with two country-made pistols and a pistol. The search to nab the other suspect is ongoing,” said the police spokesperson.
Police said they are yet to identify the suspect who is free.
Police said they were probing where the rest of the cash is. Eyewitnesses claim that the suspect who escaped did so without any cash on him. The suspects were booked under Section 394 (loot) of the Indian Penal Code at Phase 2 police station.
“Prima facie, it is difficult to ascertain where the missing money went at this moment. Our probe is on,” Sudha Singh, superintendent of police (city), said.