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?Abducting child is worst punishment?

Two Delhi parents relive how painful it must be for the Guptas to go through the ordeal, reports Avishek G Dastidar.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2006 04:14 IST

For most, the kidnapping of Anant Gupta, though sad and disturbing, is a piece of news, a little distant. But Arvind and Bharti Dewan, residents of south Delhi, understand exactly what ordeal the parents of the three-year-old are going through as they brave the crisis.

This January, it will be two years since their younger son Arpit Dewan, then just 18 months old, was kidnapped by his governess, tracked down in Rourkella, Orissa, and six days later restored to his grieving parents.

"We still shudder to recall what we went through. Those were the longest and most dreadful six days in our lives," said Bharti. "Kidnapping your child is the worst form of punishment one can put you through."

She must know. For a week, she endured the "tamasha" as her house was under siege by the media. The lane right outside the building in which the Dewans live had turned into a hunting ground for reporters, television cameras and local politicians.

"It was really painful to be part of such a tamasha amid all the worries and trauma those days," said Bharti, as Arpit, now a three-year-old, decided to embark on a chase-the-housefly mission in the room.

Those days as the police turned on a frenetic search for Arpit, the Dewans kept praying to the almighty. "There was very little we could do. The house used to be filled with friends and relatives who tried to console us. But I never gave up hope. I always believed my son would be alright," she said.

Adding to the "insufferable tension" was the barrage of misinformation and rumours about Arpit's whereabouts. Bharti recalled that once there was news that a young woman with a boy of Arpit's age had been spotted in Ghaziabad. "We were overjoyed. We went all the way to Ghaziabad and kept searching at various places, but to our dismay, it turned out to be a false alarm," she said.

On another occasion, neighbours heard rumours that the body of a boy "resembling Arpit" was found in a nearby lane. "We (neighbours) went to the area and searched every inch of the place, including water tanks in various houses, but thankfully it was just a rumour," said Satya Rana, a neighbour.

Those six days changed the way the Dewans view the world. "Now I know that kidnapping is not something that happens to strangers we read about in newspapers; it is very real," she said.

And as sign of a more practical lesson, little Arpit has not had any governess ever since.