Ganguly returns the way he left
If you shout, we will kill you, said the man
Questions begging for an answer
Jaya gives knife another twist
Calcutta weather

Calcutta, April 9 
On a murky April morning, Satyabrata Ganguly came back just as he had disappeared a week ago. In his T-shirt, shorts (or, was it kurta-pyjama?) and walking shoes. As if he was returning home from the morning walk for which he went out last Friday. But just a little late, and bringing in his trail a number of unanswered questions.

The taxi carrying the Exide chairman drove into the pebbled porch at 7.20 am. 5C New Road in Alipore breathed easy again. The administration can now rest after seven days that saw baffled detectives on tenterhooks and police minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya grope for answers.

But 5C New Road fell silent soon after as Ganguly was whisked away to elder brother Subrata?s house on Richie Road. His son Soumobroto passed on a message to journalists waiting outside the black gates which said, ?Thank you for your good wishes! The family will speak to you at 6 pm.??

Barring the odd car pulling in and a few carts loaded with chairs entering the compound, New Road was uneasily calm. At 5.05 pm Ganguly came home in his white Contessa.

Ten minutes to six, the black gates opened and Ganguly was led into the garden by his sons to recount his nightmarish tale the entire state was waiting eagerly to hear. Ganguly said his kidnappers had told him they had picked him up by mistake, which, according to him, they realised on the first day itself. They released him six days after that. No ransom was paid, he said.

When Ganguly was narrating his tale, DC (DD) Narayan Ghosh was holding a news conference in the police headquarters. The gist of their accounts matched in spirit but not in letter.

One example: The police said he returned wearing the same clothes he had left home in. Ganguly said he came back in a kurta and pyjama.

In private, the police confess they are not entirely convinced with his version of events. But it is obviously a version they have checked and rechecked with him over the day today. After Ganguly?s family rang Narayan Ghosh around 7.30 to inform him of the return, the detective chief paid a visit to New Road. Ganguly was then too tired to talk much.

They spoke at some length ? according to Ghosh, only ?10-15 minutes? ? in the afternoon at brother Subrata?s house, going over the story each was going to tell. Still, they differed.

?It was 5 am on Good Friday. It was still a bit dark. I do not wear my specs during my walk, but as I was entering Penn Road I could see a car in front, covered partially by trees. Some men were bending down as if repairing a puncture. Suddenly they jumped on me, gagged me, and began beating me up...,? said Ganguly, choking with emotion as tears filled his eyes. He was flanked by his wife and sons.

Ghosh, on the contrary, said the kidnappers? car swooped down on him from behind and picked him up.

Ganguly did not answer a single question at the news conference about the many loose ends of his account of his captivity and release.

But the police are not quite ready to shut the case and intend to follow the leads they have. They will cross-examine Ganguly soon. ?We have to verify Ganguly?s account,? Ghosh said.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu himself added to the misgivings in his inimitable monosyllabic style. Asked where the Exide chief had been, Basu enigmatically said: ?Possibly he was in a known place. Maybe, he was somewhere within his own circle.?

One lead the police are pursuing is that Ganguly was hustled into a white Tata Sumo by five men led by Akhilesh Singh, a member of the Babloo Srivastava gang. Srivastava is in jail in Allahabad but continues to operate through his cellphone.

Ganguly, detectives suspect, was taken to eastern Uttar Pradesh where he was shuttled around different towns. His abductors then negotiated with Rajan Raheja, owner of Exide Industries.

Police sources said they are probing whether two senior officials of the company travelled to Katihar and struck a deal with the kidnappers. Detectives investigating the case said the ransom may have been paid only yesterday.    

The following is Satyabrata Ganguly?s version of his kidnapping and release:

The abduction

It was the 2nd. Good Friday. It was 5 am and still a little dark. I was going for my morning walk.

I was in my shorts and walking shoes, entering Penn Road between Jalan and Bajoria House and heading for the Horticulture Gardens.

I saw a car from a distance. It was partially covered by trees. Some men were bending down as if repairing a puncture.

As I came near, they suddenly jumped on me, gagged me and began beating me up. One put a revolver to my head. I shouted but nobody was around to hear me.

Man: If you shout, we will kill you.

I was pushed to the back of the car while two or three men got on top of me and one beat me constantly. I was blindfolded. I began bleeding profusely and choking. I thought I would die.

Man: Lie down still and don?t move.

The car picked up speed. My gag was taken off. I requested to be allowed to sit up since I was not feeling well.

Man: You can do so but after a while.

A little later I was shifted to the rear of the car. All the while I was blindfolded.

We drove, drove, drove, maybe for six or eight or ten hours, I don?t know. Then the car stopped.

I was still blindfolded. Two guards led me to a house and then into a room.

Man: Take off your shoes.

My blindfolds were taken off and it was then that I saw it was evening. I also saw a mattress, a pillow and a chair. I was sweating profusely and feeling dizzy.

Men: Would you like to take a bath?

Ganguly: Yes.

A guard stood outside the bathroom all the while I was inside. The locks had been broken. They gave me a small cloth to wear.

An hour passed.

The ransom demand

Guard: A man wants to speak to you.

I was blindfolded once again and taken there.

Man (in Hindi): Who are you?

Ganguly: S.B. Ganguly

Man: How do you spell it?

Ganguly: G-A-N-G-U-L-Y.

Man: What business do you do?

Ganguly: I have no business. I am with Exide Industries.

Man: What do they do?

Ganguly: They make batteries.

Man: Don?t you stay in one of those bungalows?

Ganguly: Yes I do but I am a company executive. The house belongs to them.

Man: Then we have made a mistake.

Ganguly: I was going to tell you that but you didn?t give me a chance.

Man: Do you know why you have been called here?

Ganguly: No.

Man: We?ve called you to take ransom. We charge minimum (Rs) 2 crore.

Ganguly: You sell my family. I don?t have that money. I have just 1 lakh-2 lakh. You won?t get anything else.

Man: But my boss takes minimum 2 crore.

Ganguly: Then you?ve made a wrong pick.

Man: Who?s your contact?

Ganguly: My wife.

Man: Who else?

Ganguly: My daughter.

Man: And?

Ganguly: My brother.

I gave their phone numbers.

Man: Now you can go back and take rest.

I was given chapattis and vegetables and then I lay down on the floor.

There was no electricity, but plenty of mosquitoes.

The guard was there all the while with his gun. He slept not far from me.

The Second Day

The next day I was asked whether I wanted to go to the toilet. I said yes. They gave me toothpaste, toothbrush and a shaving kit.

After a bath, I was led into a smaller room, probably 6x2 square metres. It had a small window which was locked.

Guard: You take rest here. If you behave yourself, nothing will happen.

No other words were exchanged. I prayed and meditated. I prayed to my guruji and asked him to save me. I also asked him why a man who had never harmed anyone should be punished like this.

The Boss Appears

Sunday night I was called again. I was told the boss wanted to see me. Once again I was blindfolded and led to a room.

Boss: We are sorry to have picked you in place of someone else. I can assure you we will not take a single paisa from you. But we have seen in today?s news that some businessmen in Calcutta are meeting and collecting money for your release. If they give the money it?s fine, but otherwise also it?s OK. You will be looked after. If you need food and medicine, we?ll provide you.

Ganguly: I?m a diabetes patient. I want bitter gourd, no potatoes and no sugar in my tea.

My captors kept their word. Then I was kept confined to my room with no outside communication.

The message

Last morning, after breakfast I was lying down and praying when the guard told me the boss wanted to see me again. I was blindfolded.

Boss: Do you want to send any message to anyone?

Ganguly: Yes. To my wife and company.

Boss: Then write it on a chit and give it to me.

I wrote to my family telling them I am well and not to worry. I apologised to Exide for being unable to attend the workshop and seminar.

The release

At midnight between yesterday and today, I was woken up and told we had to go.

They gave me a kurta and pyjama to wear and I was driven blindfolded to the station.

I was put in an AC second class coach.

My blindfold was taken off and I was told to speak to no one and tell nobody who I was.

They gave me Rs 200 for the journey and Rs 25 for tea on the way. I was told I was going to Howrah.

When the train pulled into Howrah station, I went straight for the taxi stand, got into a car and headed home.

I have come home by the grace of God. Nobody could have released me except prayers and my guruji. He turned stone to wax.    


According to Ganguly, as he was taking his morning walk, he spotted a couple of men squatting in front of a car as if repairing a puncture. When he was passing by, the men pounced on him and forced him into the vehicle ? after which he was blindfolded. He travelled for over 10 hours in that car. Yet today, Ganguly could not identify whether the car was a bulky Sumo or the awkward Ambassador or the tiny Maruti.

While Ganguly said he noticed the car in front of him, the police said the vehicle came from behind. The police and Ganguly have not been able to reconcile this difference despite the Exide chief being debriefed through the day.

Given the manner of abduction, the job was clearly handled by professionals. The ?target? is trailed for days and spotters are employed on the day of ?action?. This is incongruous with Ganguly?s version of a hamhanded operation by a bunch of goons who picked the wrong man. A similar version was given by Sajjan Jalan who was also recently picked up and released. No one wants to say that they have paid ransom to kidnappers.

Ganguly may have been blindfolded but certainly did not have his ears plugged. Yet, he does not recollect a single snatch of conversation among his abductors during the 10-hour journey.

Ganguly says he was put on the train without a ticket. He was simply shown the berth on the AC II compartment. Even allowing for the laxity of the railways, it is strange that no checker asked for his ticket.

Stranger still, Ganguly says he does not know which train it was or where he boarded it. Apparently, he did not ask his co-passengers anything. Neither did he check out the name of the train once he reached Howrah. Instead, he simply walked from the platform ? he doesn?t recall which ? to the nearest taxi.

Ganguly?s obliviousness seems to be matched only by that of his fellow passengers. Before he was put on the train, he was marched blindfolded down the platform. No one seemed to notice. He was pushed into the compartment and the blindfold was removed. Yet, not a single passenger asked him a question.

According to Ganguly, he came back in a kurta and pyjama. The DC (DD) says he returned in the same shorts and T-shirt that he had worn on the morning of the kidnapping.

The police say Ganguly was given Rs 50 before he was put on the train. Ganguly has given a more charitable account of his abductors. He says they gave him Rs 225 before they released him.    

New Delhi, April 9 
Playing a long-drawn game on the political chessboard, Jayalalitha today pulled out of the co-ordination committee of the BJP and its allies but stopped short of taking the final step of withdrawing from the coalition.

The move, which comes 48 hours after the ADMK chief withdrew her two ministers, does not mean much in real terms. Even Mamata Banerjee, one of the staunchest defenders of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee at this moment, had walked out from the policy-making body.

But these are strong political signals from Chennai. Jayalalitha is building up a momentum before she announces a complete break. It is now clear that such a step will not come before April 12, when Jayalalitha arrives in Delhi and speaks with other major players.

For the first time, Vajpayee attacked Jayalalitha, hinting that she had pressured the government on corruption cases against her. ?We refused to compromise with corruption,?? he said.

The BJP also made it clear it will not yield to Opposition pressure to seek a trust vote. Parliamentary affairs minister P.R. Kumaramangalam today said his party was confident of a majority in the Lok Sabha and did not intend to prove it in the House. The BJP stand implies that the first move to dislodge the government would have to be made by the Opposition. It will have to table a no-confidence motion.

Today?s statement issued in the name of ADMK office-bearers, including general council chairman V.R. Nedunchezhian, showed there was little sign of a rapprochement with the BJP. The statement said the decision to quit the co-ordination committee was ?in furtherance of the goal that the Indian people are given a political structure? that treats all citizens equally, irrespective of religion and caste.

Accusing the BJP of being unable to tear itself away from the ?dark shadow of hardliners who sought to take India to the medieval period?, the ADMK added that dismissal of the Karunanidhi government was no more an issue. The nation?s focus, it said, had shifted to ?national security, especially the demoralisation of the armed forces through shoddy treatment of the seniormost officers and denial of best quality defence equipment?.

The ADMK alleged oppression of minorities in BJP-ruled Gujarat, and rampant corruption and crime in Uttar Pradesh. The party took a swipe at senior coalition leaders L.K. Advani and George Fernandes, charging them with patronising extremist groups like the LTTE in Tamil Nadu.

It said Fernandes was defending himself in television interviews when he should have waited to justify in Parliament his decision to sack Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat.

In Delhi, the confidence level in the BJP ranks appeared to have dipped. The warning issued from its Ashoka Road headquarters to Jayalalitha, cautioning her against joining hands with the Congress, suggested that the BJP feared the worst in case the no-confidence motion was moved.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky with possibility of thundershower in some parts. Rise in day temperature.
Temperature: Maximum 33.2?C (3?C below normal)
Minimum 25.1?C (1?C above normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 87% Minimum 60%
Rainfall: Trace
Sunset: 5.51 pm Sunrise: 5.25 am    

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