The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drugged to keep quiet, boy dies

Chandigarh, Feb. 15: Abhi Verma will never return home again.

The body of the 16-year-old, who was abducted on the way to school yesterday, was found in a canal this morning.

Two persons, Jasvir and Vikramjit Singh, both property dealers, have been arrested. They had demanded Rs 50 lakh for Abhi's safe return.

'Preliminary investigations have revealed that Abhi was administered a strong dose of a drug immediately after he was abducted yesterday to keep him quiet till the ransom amount was paid. When he did not regain consciousness, the abductors dumped the body in Alawalpur village (in Jalandhar). We are waiting for the post-mortem report to ascertain the real cause of death,' Hoshiarpur SSP Lok Nath Angra said.

One of the abductors, Vikramjit, was known to Abhi's family.

A witness account from a leprosy-afflicted beggar woman, who described the getaway vehicle with a 'V' inscribed on its back, led the police to the kidnappers last night. Jasvir and Vikramjit were trying to burn the DAV student's schoolbooks and uniform when they were arrested. 'Both led us to the spot where Abhi was dumped in the morning,' a police officer said.

'The intention of drugging Abhi, who must have resisted, was to keep him quiet while the family arranged for the ransom. But the kidnappers may have given an overdose because of which he died,' said another officer.

Police sources said the abduction was planned meticulously as Vikramjit and Jasvir had to repay a loan.

'Both decided that the best way to make money was to kidnap Abhi. They would not only be able to repay their loan but also have enough money left for themselves,' said IGP (Jalandhar range) S.K. Sharma.

Abhi's father Ravi, a prominent jeweller in Hoshiarpur, said he got a telephone call last evening and the caller 'in a harsh tone' demanded Rs 50 lakh within three hours. 'When I told them that I wanted to speak to Abhi they hung up.'

Abhi's mother Anita, who fainted after hearing the news, has been weeping and asking family members to search for her only son.

Tension gripped the city as people reacted with fear and outrage. Shops downed shutters and schools closed as the news spread that the Class-IX student's body had been found. Hundreds of mourners gathered outside Abhi's house. Mobs pelted stones at Vikramjit's house and clashed with the police. Additional security forces have been rushed to the city and prohibitive orders have been passed to deal with the situation.

The grieving residents, among them women and children, later walked to the cremation ground where Ravi lit his son's pyre. Romesh Chander Dogra, health and family welfare minister, Punjab, and SSP Angra were among those present at the funeral.

Abhi's abduction is the latest in a series of recent kidnappings in the state. Last week, another DAV school student in Amritsar, Prabhir Singh, was kidnapped for ransom. The 19-year-old has not been traced yet.

Earlier this month, four-year-old Amandeep was killed by his abductors in Phillaur. Last month, Kamalpreet, the son of a retired DSP, went missing. Jagmohan Singh, a 17-year-old, has been missing from Bathinda since January 12.

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