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Abducted trader, son back home

Dec. 26: The kidnapped foodgrain dealer, Madhav Mahto, and his son Pankaj returned to their Purnea home safely early this morning, but the Sheohar-based garments shop owner, Sushil Gupta, is still in the clutches of his abductors.

While there was jubilation at the house of the Mahtos, a pall of gloom descended on the home of Gupta at Piprahi. His relatives, along with some members of the business community, today came out on the streets and blocked traffic on the Sheohar-Piprahi road to press for his safe release.

Both Gupta and the Mahtos were kidnapped on Tuesday evening.

Purnea superintendent of police (SP) Ajit Kumar Satyarthi claimed that the abductors released Madhav and his 20-year-old son Pankaj under police pressure. The father and son duo were let off around 1am near Dholbajja in Bhagalpur district. They were brought to Purnea by the security personnel, who had gone there to carry out raids on suspected hideouts of the kidnappers, he said.

Satyarthi said a joint team of the Purnea and the Naugachia police conducted intensive raids at different hideouts of the abductors. The whereabouts of the victims and their abductors was traced through surveillance of their cellphones.

“The call details record of the cellphone used in making ransom calls helped the police trace the whereabouts of the kidnappers and the victims,” the SP told The Telegraph.

Madhav and Pankaj reached their Bhawanipur residence around 4.30am. “I was anxiously waiting for my husband and son,” said Mahto’s wife Nirmala Devi.

Pankaj said eight armed persons arrived at their Bhawanipur business centre around 11.30pm. They forced him and his 38-year-old father into a sports utility vehicle (SUV). “They threatened to open fire if we raised an alarm,” he told a police officer.

He said the abductors blindfolded them soon after the vehicle moved. After three hours, the SUV stopped in front of a cowshed on the banks of a river. “One of the kidnappers thrashed us and forced my father to talk to my mother on the cellphone. They had put pressure on her to arrange for Rs 20 lakh for our safe release,” he said, adding that his father had agreed to pay only Rs 1 lakh.