A day after a Class XI student of Lucknow’s La Martiniere College was kidnapped and subsequently rescued from a sugarcane field in neighbouring Sitapur district, police on Tuesday arrested the “mastermind” after an alleged encounter in which the latter sustained a bullet injury.
On Monday, a driver who was employed by the 16-year-old’s family, had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping. A third accused is still absconding. According to the Lucknow district police, Ajay Rai, 26, suffered a gunshot wound on his leg during an exchange of fire with a police team which was waiting for him near the Bhainsakund Ghaat. The arrested driver, Santosh Kumar, had told the police about Rai, who has been admitted in King George Medical University’s (KGMU) trauma centre.
“Class XI student Arnav Agarwal was reported missing after he left for his school in a Mahindra XUV on Monday morning with driver Santosh Kumar. After the boy’s father Anoop Agarwal reported the incident, police search teams were formed. Through footage from CCTVs along the route, we found out that the XUV had gone towards the Lucknow-Sitapur national highway,” said Anand Shahi, station house officer (SHO) of Harzratganj police station. He further said that while the CCTV footage had shown two more people other than the accused driver sitting in the XUV, the student could not be seen.
“We went to Baikunthpur village in Sitapur, where the driver is from. There we were informed that the driver had come in Agarwal’s XUV, but then left for the native village of one of his associates, Sarvesh Yadav. The police team then went to Sarvesh’s village Manpur and was able to trace the vehicle, which had Arnav’s schoolbag in it. We also nabbed the accused driver and found the boy in a nearby sugarcane field. His hands and mouth were tied with cloth,” the SHO added.
After his arrest, the driver admitted to kidnapping the child to get ransom from his father, who runs a business of surgical equipment in Lucknow. He also told police that the kidnapping was planned by Lucknow resident Ajay Rai — originally from Samastipur district in Bihar — who had convinced him and his maternal cousin Sarvesh to kidnap the student.
“During interrogation the driver said that after he left for school with the boy, he picked up both of his associates on the way, who drugged the boy and pushed him under the XUV’s back seat. When they reached Khairabad area near the Sitapur border, they found the road blocked by some protesters, so they took a different route and went to Sarvesh’s village. There, they gagged the boy and tied him up,” a police officer said.
The officer added that based on information provided by the driver, a police team waited for Rai on Tuesday morning near Bhainsakund Ghaat. “The accused, who was on a motorcycle, opened fire at the team when he reached the spot. In retaliatory firing, he suffered a gunshot injury in his left leg. No police officer was injured in the encounter,” the officer further said.
“We recovered the motorcycle and a country-made pistol from his possession. We are on the lookout for the third accused, Sarvesh is still absconding and they are looking for him,” the officer added.