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Kidnap for ransom trail grows cold in hunt for boy from Calcutta

Nov. 6: The abduction of a Calcutta boy on his way to Delhi from his school in Dehra Dun may not be a simple case of kidnapping for ransom, police said on Wednesday.

Last Friday, Prateek Dewan, a Class X student of Guru Ramdas Academy and son of Calcutta businessman Rajesh Dewan, was apparently kidnapped when he was being brought to Delhi to celebrate Diwali with his parents. While Prateek and the car that he was travelling in remain untraced, the bullet-riddled body of driver Ramesh Khurana was found.

Initially, the police believed that it was an open-and-shut case of kidnapping for ransom, but they are now trying to ascertain whether it could have been an “inside job”.

“There is enough evidence to suggest that the operation was carried out by someone known to the boy,” IGP, Meerut, P.C. Sabarwal, said. “In fact, the kidnapping theory is turning out to be a remote possibility as the abductors have not got in touch with the boy’s family either in Delhi or in Calcutta.”

Sabarwal pointed out that the driver’s clothes were removed after the killing and he was flung by the wayside. “The criminals would not have killed the driver and removed his clothes if it was ransom that they were after,” he said.

There is only one relative in the Dewans’ home in Karnani Estate in Calcutta’s Beniapukur area. “The entire family is in Delhi and I am here to receive telephone calls,” said Shanti Devi. “There have been no ransom calls from anyone so far. So far, we have not received any reports from either Uttaranchal or Uttar Pradesh police on the whereabouts of Prateek.”

Prateek’s grandfather Y.P. Dewan, a retired government employee settled in Delhi’s Rohini, too, said the family has not received any call or letter demanding ransom. “We don’t have to divulge more as there is nothing to say now that my grandson is missing,” he said in grief.

Prateek was waiting to join his grandparents in Delhi for Diwali celebrations as his school was closed for five days.

The student had tried to reserve a berth on Shatabdi Express from Dehra Dun to Delhi. But having failed to get a confirmed ticket, his father decided to send a Toyota Qualis from Delhi.

The family driver was called to Delhi from Saharanpur, Dewan’s ancestral town 120 km away from the capital, and told to bring Prateek back.

The bullet-riddled body of the driver was found in Bhainsi village in Muzaffarnagar, a western Uttar Pradesh district known for crime.

According to the police, Prateek left Guru Ramdas Academy around 2.30 pm on November 1. The driver and Prateek were supposed to reach Saharanpur first to collect some medicines for the boy’s grandfather and Rs 20,000 from their relatives there. They were to reach Saharanpur at 6 pm and then proceed to Delhi.

Prateek’s family migrated from Saharanpur to Calcutta, where they took up the business of selling audio and video cassettes. Driver Khurana also lived in Saharanpur and has been associated with the family for years.

The police came to know of the incident when Vijay Pal Singh, a resident of Bhainsi, registered a complaint at the Khautauli police station of Muzaffarnagar that an unidentified body was lying in the jungle. The police later found a piece of paper with a number scribbled on it.

The number was traced to a telephone in Saharanpur. The body was identified as that of Ramesh after the police dialled the number, senior superintendent of police Brij Bhushan Sharma said but did not give details.

Six days after the murder of Ramesh, the Muzaffarnagar police have not been able to make much headway.

The officer conceded that the Qualis has not yet been found. “We have dispatched four teams to various places, depending on the leads we have got. We have also flashed messages across the state giving descriptions of Prateek and the Qualis,” Sharma said.

The officer added that the driver was murdered somewhere else and the body dumped in Bhainsi, pointing out that there was no pool of blood at the spot. He said the murderers could have dumped the body there to throw the police off track.

Prateek’s father Rajesh, who flew in from Calcutta to Delhi on November 2, is shuttling between Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur. Rajesh and his brother attended the funeral of the driver at Saharanpur.

Residents of Bhainsi village said the area is not new to such murders. One of them claimed that in the past two years, six bodies were recovered from there. The entire belt of western Uttar Pradesh has a history of murders and highway robberies.

But Sharma claimed that matters have improved of late and that only one murder of this kind had occurred in the past two months.

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