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Kidnap shock on eve of Christmas

Dec. 25: A garments shop owner was kidnapped from Sheohar, while a foodgrain dealer and his son were taken hostage at gunpoint in Purnea on the eve of Christmas.

The abductors of the Sheohar-based cloth trader, Sushil Gupta, have not demanded any ransom till the filing of the report. But the relatives of the Purnea-based foodgrain dealer have received ransom calls from the kidnappers, demanding Rs 20 lakh for safe release of the trader and his son.

The reports of the kidnapping of the trio came at a time when a Criminal Investigation Department (CID)’s team is camping in Daman to probe the alleged links of the abductors of a Surat-based industrialist’s son with an influential leader of the ruling party in the state.

Sheohar superintendent of police (SP) Himanshu Shanker Trivedi said Gupta (26), the garments trader, was kidnapped last evening while he was returning home on a motorcycle after closing his shop. Some sports utility vehicle (SUV)-borne criminals intercepted his motorbike near Pothia Chowk on Sheohar-Piprahi road, around 140km north of Patna, and forced him to accompany them at gunpoint.

Trivedi said Gupta’s two employees, who were travelling with him on the same two-wheeler, were allowed to go. He said the abductors later contacted Gupta’s sister-in-law (elder brother’s wife) on phone and informed her about his abduction.

A native of Piprahi in Sheohar district, Gupta had recently purchased a plot of land at a prime location in Sheohar town at an exorbitant rate. The SP suspects it might have made others envious. He said prima facie it appeared Gupta had been kidnapped for ransom.

Sources said some criminals had followed Gupta on Monday evening also, but he managed to escape.

“It is quite surprising that Gupta did not contact the police after an attempt was made to kidnap him a day earlier,” the SP told The Telegraph on phone from Sheohar.

In Purnea, Madhav Mahto (38) and his son Pankaj Kumar (20) were kidnapped yesterday from their office at Bhawanipur, around 380km northeast of Patna. The kidnappers later demanded Rs 20 lakh as ransom for their safe release.

Madhav’s wife Nirmala Devi said the family had a dispute with some people about three months ago and they assaulted her husband. A case was lodged with the Bhawanipur police station.

Purnea SP Ajit Kumar Satyarthi said a case had been lodged on the basis of the statement of Nirmala, who apprehended that her husband and son had been kidnapped. “All the five persons involved in the assault on Madhav about three months ago have been arrested. They are being interrogated,” he said, adding that Mahto had given a plot of land to one Sandip Sah for setting up a “dharma kanta” (heavy vehicle weighing machine).

The SP claimed that Mahto’s economic condition was not well. But sources close to the family contradicted the police’s claim and said the Mahtos hailed from a well-off family and had several businesses.

A neighbour of the Mahtos said the value of their seven cottahs of land at Bhawanipur market in Purnea was estimated to be Rs 1.5 crore. “What to talk of other businesses, when the family has a property worth Rs 1.5 crore at Bhawanipur itself,” he added.