Intrigues galore in the NOIDA kidnapping case
By Maxwell Pereira

There are aspects in the Anant Gupta kidnapping case, which are intriguing and disturbing. There appears to be more here than meets the eye. Salman Khurshid of the Congress opposition in Uttar Pradesh has already gone to town declaring that the case smacks of criminal-politician nexus. He has voiced a nagging conclusion that's on the minds of every thinking person who has followed up the traumatic developments that unfolded in this gripping human drama - which even with its happy ending has left many questions unanswered.

Little Anant Gupta, son of Adobe India's CEO Naresh Gupta, was kidnapped on Monday Oct 13 while being walked up to the school bus stop. Whisked by two motorcycle riding miscreants from near his Sector 15-A home in NOIDA on the outskirts of Delhi. Naresh Gupta who was away in the US returned only early Tuesday.

For five days then the UP/Gaziabad police were at sea, with no clue to the whereabouts of the missing child. The child's father Naresh now claims he received about 15 ransom calls, though the media got no wind to this. In fact it was given out throughout there were no ransom calls.

On Thursday -16th, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the State Chief Minister makes a statement publicised in the media, that the child will be returned safely to his parents.

As if on cue and in compliance to Yadav's supreme command, 3-year-old Anant returns home alone in an autorickshaw the very next day - on Friday the 17th. The auto driver claims he was given the boy by two persons at a CNG Pump across the river in Sarita Vihar (Delhi) and some money to reach him home.

Simultaneously the NOIDA and Gaziabad police authorities and the Uttar Pradesh Home Secretary issue conflicting statements that the UP STF and Noida Police rescued the boy in a joint operation at Kakore village from near the Noida-Bulandshahr border. No details of the rescue operation are provided. No explanation to the child's unescorted return home alone in the auto. This still remains a mystery.

From the emerging facts a ransom appears to have been paid for the child's return, though the police at different stages have given different versions on this - from claiming there was no ransom at all, then lack of knowledge if at all there was, to finally admitting they recovered about 50 lakhs of the ransom money from the house in Kakore village of a relative of one of the accused.

The police then go through the charade of press briefings, even presenting before mediapersons and cameras the ones arrested by them ostensibly for the crime. The ones arrested -not without the clamour on the part of their relatives of a frame-up, have corroborated the police version, even confessing to the crime with details of how and why they did it. The police could not have had a better spokesperson than Naresh Gupta, the child's father, whose valiant effort at convincing the media what a wonderful job the police did, though, did not cut ice with the news hounds who had by now tasted blood with the ready made massala being provided to them by the police on a silver platter. The press briefings end up in a fiasco, the unanswered questions remaining unanswered, and the police emerging with egg on their face making a spectacle of themselves before rolling TV cameras that carried these images to millions of viewers across the country and elsewhere. The immaturity in media handling exhibited by the police is another matter - only highlighting the crying need for the police to measure up on this vital issue.

Media semantics by breaking-news TV channels have contributed no less to the confusion. One channel presented in its programme a masked man, allegedly the leader of a known UP gang, blaming the kidnapping on two other gangs, who released him only after a ransom of Rs.5 crores was paid, he said. In the face of the conflicting stories Naresh Gupta's blind support of the police version has raised eyebrows, but most are charitable not to blame a distraught parent for probably toeing the line demanded of him and doing whatever in his might to save his child.

So in the resultant confusion, there are questions: Was Anant rescued at all, or delivered? If rescued, from where exactly was he rescued/ recovered, and by whom? And why the autorickshaw drama? If he was released and delivered, under what circumstances? And the ransom? Was there really any exchange of money? If yes, how and where was the ransom delivered and by whom?

The auto driver's expose supported by Anant's grandfather drove gaping holes in the police story still not plugged - giving credence to the popular take for the common man that the whole thing has been stage-managed. Even the arrests. There are rumours doing the rounds about parleys between the kidnapped child's family, the police and the criminals, through political mediations. Even that a politician in power accompanied the ransom carrier to deliver it to the kidnappers. Which brings to the fore: how deep is the criminal-politician nexus here? Is the police administration in UP being held to ransom by political bosses to toe their line in the deadly game of criminal protection and sharing of spoils?

There is also the other aspect: If it really were a good job of sleuthing done by the police - an absolutely commendable work as forcefully projected by Naresh Gupta, then why the conflicting versions from the police - both regarding the rescue, and the payment/recovery of ransom? Is the reason for confusion midst the police ranks and administrators because of the political monitoring? Is the political leadership in the state going to clarify these nagging and ominous shrapnel and projectiles?

20.11.2006: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira; 3725 Sector 23, Gurgaon-122002; Tel: 0124-5111026; Available at or http:/www.


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