A deafening silence in place of their son
He visited a gang of killers in their jail cell, desperately hoping his son — who has been missing since August 2006 — had fallen in their path.india Updated: Jan 26, 2010 23:49 IST
He visited a gang of killers in their jail cell, desperately hoping his son — who has been missing since August 2006 — had fallen in their path.
This way at least, Rajinder Kuntal (45) would get some sense of closure about what happened to Pradip, 17-years-old when he disappeared.
Kuntal, a manager with a car dealer company, had dropped Pradip off at Iffco Chowk on Gurgaon Expressway at 7 am on August 12, 2006, so the boy could take a bus to his uncle’s home at Badarpur in south Delhi, 25 kms away.
The Class XI student of DPS Maruti Kunj was not seen after that. The family never received a ransom call or note.
In place of Pradip, there was only a terrifying silence.
Ever since, the Kuntals, residents of Maruti Kunj, a middle-class locality, keep track of each group of criminals apprehended in Gurgaon, hoping for a clue into Pradip’s disappearance.
Three months after Pradip went missing, Gurgaon police arrested on November 6, 2006, nine cab drivers who had allegedly killed and robbed 28 passengers, some for an amount as low as Rs two.
Rajinder Kuntal rushed to Sector the 10 police station, where the maxi cab killers — as they had come to be known — were housed. Their victims had included two 19-year-olds.
The criminals — who had confessed to several other murders — gently convinced the distraught father they had not murdered his son, explaining to him their modus operandi.
“The cabbies told me they did not target children as they did not carry enough money. They said they’d operate only after sunset and my son went missing in the morning,” the father says.
The Kuntals believe a gang was involved in their son’s disappearance. Police registered a case of kidnapping against unknown persons, but deny the involvement of an organised gang.
What happened that day
The day Pradip disappeared was a Saturday, a school holiday.
The 17-year-old had been hankering to join his mother at his maternal uncle’s home in Badarpur. Snehlata Kuntal (41) had gone to her brother’s house two days ago to tie him rakhi.
“We had left home on a happy note,” says Kuntal. “On my way to my office, Pasco automobile, I dropped Pradip at Iffco Chowk. He was supposed to catch a bus to Badarpur from there.”
The crossing swarmed with traffic as Pradip said goodbye to his father, getting out of the family’s Maruti 800 car.
At 9 am Kuntal called his wife Snehlata, expecting to speak his son.
Pradip had not reached Badarpur, he learnt. The parents, growing anxious by now, started making frantic phone calls to friends and relatives.
Pradip had not made a detour.
Finally, Kuntal filed a missing report at the Gurgaon Sector 18 police station on August 20.
For months after the disappearance, the father went searching from morgue to morgue, hospital to hospital, across Delhi and Gurgaon.
Pradip had not made a detour.
Police say 244 children below the age of 16 went missing in Gurgaon between 2006 and 2009, 196 of them aged between 10 and 16.
121 of them returned home, say cops.
Every time such a homecoming makes the news, the Kuntals’ dying hope rekindles briefly.
One such instance was the return of 17-year-old Sumit Singh on December 5. Sumit had been missing since June 12, 2007 from nearby Rajiv Nagar.
“Sumit was drugged by a group of unknowns and taken to Mumbai. He was handed over to a dhaba where he worked for over two years,” says Rajinder Kuntal. “We believe Pradip will return like Sumit did.”
Tied with the parent’s tenuous hope is rage against the police, whom they claim of being all too eager to close the file on the case.
“Police have done their job half-heartedly,” says Snehlata Kuntal. “Police know a gang involved in kidnapping the children and selling them as servants is active in Gurgaon.”
Senior police officials claim they have done all they could in the case.
Besides interrogating criminal gangs, police say, they had at the time announced Pradip ’s disappearance on radio, Doordarshan and the Web.
The Kuntals claim police have a lax attitude towards investigations. Pradip’s file is all but buried under those of 123 missing or kidnapped minors.
For instance, claim the family, police could have interrogated about Pradip the seven men they arrested for the kidnapping and murder of Mohammad Azaharuddin, a class XI student of DPS Maruti Kunj on November 21, 2009. “Two of these criminals had been living in a rented house in Maruti Kunj in 2006, the year Pradip went missing. Despite our request to interrogate them about Pradip, police did not comply,” says Rajinder Kuntal.
Gurgaon Police Commissioner S S Deswal says no professional gang of kidnappers is operational in Gurgaon. “Haryana does not play host to any kind of organized crime. Barring a few freak incidents of kidnapping, most cases have been solved.”
Police terminology may have relegated a family’s unrelieved nightmare to a freak incident, but the Kuntals are not giving up.
“Pradip will return home one day, and press the doorbell just like Sumit did,” says Snehlata Kuntal, tears running down her face. “They will see.”