The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Play comrade, save hostage
- Cops use red ruse to collar kidnappers

When dealing with the underworld, what playing the police cannot achieve, posing as politician often can. Cops discovered this the smart way late on Monday while tracking down a kidnap victim.

A police officer masquerading as a local CPM committee leader from Tikiapara managed to engage a gang of kidnappers in telephone talk, win its trust, bust its hideout, and rescue the victim, a car-dealer from south Calcutta.

'When we pretended to be local CPM leaders, their (the kidnappers') tone changed,' said a sleuth. 'They said the victim would not come to any harm if the two sides stuck to points agreed upon.'

Tahesildar Singh, a dealer in new and used cars, was abducted from his Rupchand Mukherjee Lane residence, in Bhowanipore, around 6 pm on Monday. 'A gang of five descended on Singh's house. The youths stormed in, beat up the dealer in front of his wife Satyabhama and cousin Pramod,' said an officer of Bhowanipore police station.

The goons dragged Singh into a van and sped away. 'The operation lasted no more than five minutes. The goons warned Singh's relatives not to alert the cops, and to wait for their call,' said the official.

The first call came after two hours. 'The abductors demanded Rs 3 lakh. They said Singh had delivered a taxi to a businessman in Tikiapara, Howrah,' said Anuj Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (south division). 'The caller claimed Singh owed the money to the Tikiapara businessman and threatened to kill him if no one came to Tikiapara with the amount before midnight.'

Singh's family then contacted Bhowanipore police, who picked up the cell phone number of the caller from the CLI installed at the car dealer's residence. 'Before making the call, we spent half-an-hour trying to figure out who we should say was calling,' said an official.

'Then emerged the idea to use the name of local leaders of the ruling party. As the abductors were from Tikiapara, we decided to identify ourselves as some CPM local committee members,' he added.

The ploy worked. An officer of Bhowanipore police station made the call. 'They took more than an hour to negotiate, finally demanding Singh's white Ambassador as ransom. They clearly mentioned the time and spot where we should send the car,' an officer said.

A team of policemen, led by sub-inspector S.S. Roy, left for Tikiapara, with Singh's cousin Pramod driving the Ambassador. They informed their counterparts in Howrah before reaching the designated spot. Pramod remained in the car, while plainclothesmen waited in another vehicle.

'An hour later, two youths in their late 20s came up to Singh's car and started talking to Pramod. The duo then got into the car,' said an official of Howrah police. 'We immediately surrounded the car and arrested the duo, Akhtar Ahmed and Mohammad Sahid.'

Acting on information provided by the two, police raided the slum hideout close to the rendezvous point and found Singh. 'Fortunately, he was unhurt,' said an official of Bhowanipore police station.

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