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The curious case of Bihar

The curious case of Bihar
But the recovery of Sohail Hingora (son of a <g data-gr-id="255">Surat-based</g> textile baron) from the house of a small-time politician in the town of Chapra on November 30, 2013 and arrest of Ajay Singh in the Gaya couple kidnapping case on May 6, 2015 has opened a can of worms. 

In both the high-profile abduction cases, fingers are pointed at politicians, including legislators from the ruling Janata Dal (United) in Bihar and their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh for their role in these 
kidnappings.

The arrest of Ranjit Singh in connection with the Sohail Hingora case, and Ajay Singh along with eight others in the case of Gaya-based doctor Pankaj Kumar Gupta and his wife Shubra, indicate that the business of kidnapping may well be back in the state. The incident, however, may prove costly to both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, who have agreed for a merger of their outfits in an attempt to save their ground from losing it to their arch rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Assembly polls.

“When Nitish Kumar in alliance with BJP had come to power in November 2005 defeating RJD-led UPA, riding on the issue of poor law and order situation as during the Lalu-Rabri regime, kidnapping was rampant in the state. There is no denying the fact that during the first tenure ofNitish-led government, the crime was in total control. At that time, even notorious criminals patronised by top-notch politicians, were behind the bars. But during the second spell of Nitish government, there was some lacuna in his style of functioning,” said a senior police officer in Bihar.

Whether there was any lacuna or not, is a matter of discussion, but one thing is clear that Bihar government needs to crack a whip against criminals, who have again started using border areas of the state as their spot of committing the crime. The recent incident of Gaya doctor couple kidnapping has raised several questions over law and order situation in the state. The opposition, leaving no chance to attack the government, said that the incident indicates <g data-gr-id="236">return</g> of the “jungle raj”. “Such type of high-profile kidnapping syndicates can be executed only in connivance with the high and mighty as well as their inter-state <g data-gr-id="240">counter parts</g>.

In case of Hingora, he was kidnapped in Daman and brought to Bihar and the victim was in captivity for a month at different locations. Just imagine, how a part-time kidnapper can keep his “subject” at his home for so long! This raises eyebrows. They enjoy the blessings of their <g data-gr-id="241">aakas</g>, who plays behind the scenes,” a senior officer of Bihar Police said. Dr. Gupta is a popular figure in Gaya. His father K L Gupta is a businessman and is associated with Chamber of Commerce. Shubhra, too, is socially active. She is also a businesswoman and is associated with the <g data-gr-id="243">Innerwheel</g> Club.

They were kidnapped with their new swanky Audi Q3 SUV, which costs around Rs 35 lakh. <g data-gr-id="223">Owing</g> an Audi SUV in Gaya, where roads are not well-suited for such luxurious vehicles, may invite income tax officials to take stock of the business records of the victims.

The kingpin in the doctor abduction case was arrested from Lucknow’s posh area Gomati Nagar, who had held Gupta and his wife captive in a flat. It has not yet been ascertained whether <g data-gr-id="232">ransom</g> was paid or not. But rumours are doing the rounds that the couple had paid a handsome amount for their release. The kingpin, a son of <g data-gr-id="230">police</g> officer (retired DSP Mangal Singh), is a postgraduate in Political Science from Patna University. Ajay, the second among four siblings, tried his luck to become an IAS officer and appeared for the UPSC examination twice in 1986 and 1987.

Ajay later attempted to become an entrepreneur and in the process established a factory in Aurangabad (Bihar) in 1988. After his dream to become a business tycoon was shattered, Ajay attempted to enter politics but failed to deliver in both the attempts in the electoral field. He had contested a Lok sabha election from <g data-gr-id="235">Chatra</g> constituency (now in Jharkhand) from late Prime Minister Chandrashekar’s party and Assembly election from Rafiganj in south-central Bihar in 1990.

The ruling JD(U) is taking the credit of safe rescue of Gupta couple. Talking to Millennium Post, JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said, “We should applaud the efforts of Bihar police and government as well. It’s the prompt efforts ofNitish government that kidnappers were tracked and doctor couple rescued safely.” While taking on opposition party BJP for politicising the incident, Kumar said, “The BJP leaders have started a new tradition of extracting benefit out <g data-gr-id="246">ofcrisis</g>. Instead of extending a helping hand to crack the case, they were busy mudslinging the state government to settle scores in 
political rivalry.”

While the leader of Opposition in the House, Nand Kishore Yadav, told Millennium Post that the incident indicates the return of jungle raj in the state, which was ousted by the BJP when it was the part of the government. “Given the fact that the incumbent CM cannot leave without power, so he has joined hands with RJD, who is known for sheltering criminals and demolishing institutions during its 15-year regime. Kidnapping was a money-minting industry during Lalu’s reign, so how could it be stopped,” Yadav said, adding, “They find the situation more conducive as now they have become Janata Parivar and UP is under the rule of Samajwadi Party, a key constituent of the Parivar. They will do whatever they wish.”

While talking about Sohail Hingora incident, former Daman SP Atul Kumar Thakur, who was looking into the Hingora abduction case, told Millennium Post that during the course of investigation it came to notice that kidnappers had got calls from areas near Punjab border, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, etc.

“Though I was transferred in the middle of the investigation but while I was there, I probed the matter from different angles and scanned several police stations across the country to get more clues about the abductors. We got success in that as once of the prime accused in the case, Ranjit Kumar, was arrested by the joint effort of Daman cops and Bihar police,” Thakur said.

In reply to a question regarding <g data-gr-id="245">involvement</g> of any politician in the matter, the former Daman SP said that till he was handling the case, no such name came up. But the sad part of the story is that even after a year-and-half the main accused in the case, Chandan Sonar, is still roaming scot-free. Who is sheltering Sonar is yet to be <g data-gr-id="244">ascertained</g> but an interesting fact is that Ranjit had got married while Sohail was kidnapped and released. According to sources, a Minister in the Nitish Kumar government and an MLC were also present at his wedding. 

The Bihar police had admitted that a ransom amount of Rs 9 crore was paid, while Sohail’s father Hanif Hingora, however, had said that he had paid Rs 25 crore and could prove it. Will Bihar ever emerge from the kidnapping syndrome? It is a very pertinent question that every police officer and succeeding governments need to look into.

Main kinpin Ajay Singh

Ajay Singh (52), is originally a resident of Aurangabad in central Bihar. Singh is wanted in a number of cases of kidnapping for ransom in Bihar, UP, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Rajasthan among other states. Ajay shifted his base to UP from where he ran his kidnapping industry and targeted the rich and mighty to collect huge sums as ransom, allegedly with the patronage of powerful people in the corridors of power.

Ajay was first arrested from Patna’s Anisabad in 2000 by the Patna’s SSP Sunil Kumar, who is now the incumbent ADG (headquarters). He was accused of kidnapping five industrialists of Kolkata between September 1996 and April 1999. Ajay is accused of kidnapping Sidhartha Siwalka on September 16, 1996, Jiten Agarwal on December 18, 1997, Rajesh Jain on August 13, 1998 and Sajjan Jalan on Jabuary 1, 1999. The biggest catch for his gang was Exide Industries chairman SB Ganguly, who was abducted from Alipore in Kolkata on April 2, 1999. Ajay’s name cropped up in February 2003 when he allegedly abducted Sumedha Dulabhji, 60, wife of Rashmikant Durlabhji, a prominent jeweller and exporter based in Jaipur.

She was rescued on February 23, 2003 from the clutches of a seven-member gang of abductors in Faridabad. The kidnappers, who held the victim in their custody for 18 days, had reportedly demanded a ransom of Rs 2.5 crore. Sumedha, a close relative of former deputy Prime Minister and now BJP patriarch LK Advani, was whisked away by four persons, including an armed person, from the university area of Jaipur when she was on a morning stroll. The victim was abducted in a Maruti Esteem which had a Jharkhand registration (JH-11A-7987).


Barachatii: The hijack zone
A 40-kilometre stretch on the National Highway-2 in Bihar has become the “hijack zone” in the notebooks of police officials. There have been several instances of disappearance of loaded trucks and high-profile persons from the area. The stretch, which is dubbed as the “Bermuda Triangle” of Bihar for having a high number missing and kidnapping cases, runs from Dobhi town to Barachatti block in Gaya district.

About 50 trucks with drivers and cleaners were reported missing from the zone during the past five years. Besides the incident of missing trucks, a number of high-profile kidnappings for ransom, has also been reported from the area, police officials said. Apart from the Gaya couple abduction, Rohtas-based mining contractor Ravi Ranjan Singh, who is a close relative of Siwan district magistrate Sanjay Kumar, was reported missing with his new Toyota Fortuner SUV along with his driver from a spot near Barachatti. Later, his kidnappers released him at Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh after they were allegedly paid Rs 40 lakh cash in ransom. Singh was abducted on January 22 this year.

Earlier, on January 18, 2012 industrialist Anil Agarwal of Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) was abducted along with the driver of his SUV while they were heading for Asansol (West Bengal) from Varanasi. Agarwal was reportedly released nearRajauli valley along the Koderma-Nawada border on February 21. Police sources claimed that his family paid Rs 5 crore to the kidnappers for his release. 

These three had been the established cases of kidnapping for ransom, a number of trucks, vehicles, and containers had also been reported missing from the stretch over the period, police sources said. Later some of them were recovered but without the goods they carried. At least 15 to 20 bodies of the “missing” drivers and cleaners had been found from the Rajauli valley in Nawada district, about 50 km north east of Barachatti, from time to time, the officer said.

Dhirendra Kumar

Dhirendra Kumar

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