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FOR TWO years, Vinod and Pinky Gupta prayed and hoped they would find their son Yug alive and well. That hope was shattered when the boy’s skeletal remains were found in a water tank in Shimla on August 22.
Yug was kidnapped on June 14, 2014, two weeks short of his second birthday. Last week, a CID team recovered the boy’s broken skull and bones from the tank, where he was dumped seven days after his kidnapping. Police were led there by one of the accused, Vikrant Bakshi, arrested the previous day.
Two others have been arrested. Chander Sharma, whom the police claims to be the mastermind, and Tajender Singh, who has a police record as a petty thief, and Bakshi, a college dropout, have reportedly told police the boy was alive but unconscious when they dumped him in the tank after force-feeding him with liquor.
The discovery of the remains has not just plunged his family in grief and anger, it has also convulsed Shimla. The hill town has rarely witnessed such a gruesome crime. Residents have taken out daily protest marches demanding to know why the police took so long to crack the case. Mobs have attacked the accused twice in three days when they were being produced in court.
The opposition too has taken it up. Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal visited the family Monday and later told reporters, “The police lost valuable time nabbing the culprits, who were even let out on bail twice [in connection with other crimes].”
Vinod Gupta sat on dharna outside the DC’s office Sunday. “In zalim darindon ne mare bete ko maar dala (These cruel barbarians killed my son),” he said. “I want police to hand them to me just for 30 minutes. I will strip them in public, and do exactly what they did to my child.”
The businessman, who deals in tobacco products, has had two heart surgeries since his son went missing.
Yug was kidnapped near his home, close to the home of main accused Chander Sharma. Police said Sharma lured the child to his house with chocolates, forced him to drink liquor to knock him out, packed him into a box and drove him to a house, which accused Singh had hired.
“Chander Sharma confessed that if the child were to be sent back, he would have disclosed his identity, so it was better to eliminate the child. They also made video footage on a mobile and wrote a letter demanding ransom,” said a police officer.
Yug’s father says they had already killed the boy before the letter for ransom, demanding the curiously exact amount of Rs 3.62 crore, reached his shop at Rambazar on June 27, the boy’s second birthday. “The letter demanded the money be sent to Ambala with our domestic worker Hari the next day, which we could not do,” he said.
All the while, Gupta said, Sharma pretended to be a good neighbour. He even went with Gupta to the police station to lodge an FIR on the disappearance.
During the next two months, the family received three more letters, the last one threatening to kidnap and murder Gupta’s daughters Tisha and Bhumi, now in classes ninth and sixth. “By this time, we had started suspecting Sharma and told the police. Nobody took me seriously. He use to track every movement of my family,” said Gupta.
In August-September 2014, the case was transferred to the CID. In 2015, all three accused were arrested, in a mobile theft case, but were out on bail soon. “We recovered stolen mobiles, which were kept as case property,” recalls D W Negi, SP.
The real story began to unfold only in June-July 2016, when CID teams started tracking phone details of residents of Rambazar area. The accused were arrested and sent to Ahmedabad for narco-analysis. “They managed to skip the test on medical grounds and were released on bail soon,” said Gupta.
However, when the CID took possession of mobiles seized by Shimla police in 2015 and sent these for analysis to the state forensic lab, a picture of a child with his hands tied was retrieved from the deleted data of one phone, which belonged to Vikrant Bakshi. This, along with CDRs of other phones, pinpointed the presence of all three accused at the rented house.
“We have now taken permission of the court to send all three for narco-analysis test on September 6,” said Vinod Dhawan, DIG (CID), who led the investigations over the last two years.
“My son has given his life to save other Shimla children from these men, had they not been caught,” said Gupta.