Like his abduction, his homecoming too happened all of a sudden. On Friday afternoon, four days after he was abducted, three-year-old Anant Gupta reached home, travelling alone in an autorickshaw.
Around 12.15 pm, Anant reached his home at Sector 15A in Noida. His father Naresh Gupta, CEO of Adobe India, was catching up on sleep after having spent another night, awake, anxious. "I went to sleep around 11.15 am I heard shouts that Anant was back. I rushed downstairs and saw he had returned,” said Gupta.
It was not just the Guptas who were relieved. There was a collective sigh of relief in the National Capital Region where even strangers prayed for the safe return of the boy. Anant was kidnapped on Monday morning by two armed men on a motorcycle while he was on his way to school.
The Uttar Pradesh Police said the boy returned because of their efforts. They were, however, unable to join all the dots. At a press conference, seven hours after Anant’s return, Narendra Bahadur Singh, Inspector-General, Meerut range, said the police had put the boy on the autorickshaw as part of a strategy after they rescued him from the Kakore police station area near Bulandshahr. Anant, however, told mediapersons that he was put on the auto by “bhaiyya”, which was how he kept referring to his abductors.
Singh said a police van had tailed the auto to the Guptas’ residence. But the guard at the house, Devender Singh, said no van was following the autorickshaw.
Devender said the autorickshaw driver had walked up to the gate with the boy and asked him if he recognised the child. Since it was Devender’s first day at the Guptas, he failed to identify Anant and asked the driver to go away. When the driver insisted that he was asked to drop the child at this address, Devender took Anant inside.
"Anant is his usual self since he returned — playful, cheerful and active," said Gupta. “The kidnappers had demanded Rs 60 lakh as ransom money on Monday evening. However, no money was paid.”
The IG said they had identified four of the accused. “One of them, Jitender, has been arrested. Three others, Chattrapal, Pawan and Vijay Chauhan are absconding,” he said. While Chauhan is a resident of Sector 24, Noida, the others are from New Ashok Nagar in East Delhi. Chattrapal and Jitender’s father ran a dairy booth outside the victim’s house and the two had identified the target.
But the police could not answer why they could not catch the accused at Kakore when they intercepted Anant, nor why Anant was not brought in a police van. The IG walked out of the conference when these queries were put to him.