Two statements on Saturday deepened the mystery behind the sensational kidnapping and recovery of three-year-old Anant Gupta.
They also shot holes in the UP police's account of how Anant returned home on Friday morning.
Firstly, the autorickshaw driver who brought Anant home, Bhupinder Singh, told a news channel that two men handed him the child in Delhi's Sarita Vihar—not police in Kakore, on the Noida-Bulandshahar border. Singh said the men paid him Rs 50 and gave him Anant's address in Noida's sector 15A. "They approached me at the CNG station near Apollo hospital and I took the boy home," he said.
Police did not budge from their story. "We stand by what we said on Friday," superintendent of police Soumitra Yadav said. "The child was rescued from Kakore." He did not explain why they sent Anant alone in an autorickshaw for the 50-km journey home.
Singh's claims appeared corroborated by the second statement, made by a masked man on a TV channel. He identified himself as Ashok Kalia of the Kalia gang, and he claimed that the Sirohi and Bhati gangs of western UP had kidnapped Anant.
He further claimed that Anant had been kept at his house for a couple of days, that a ransom of Rs five crore was paid, and that he had dropped Anant near Apollo hospital on Friday.
"These claims are wrong," Meerut inspector-general NB Singh said. "No ransom of Rs five crore was paid. No big gang was involved. This story about Kalia is all rubbish. Anyone can say anything."
The auto-driver, who was kept at the sector 63 police station on Friday, and was rewarded by Anant's family, did say something. He narrated how two men approached him, saying the infant was lost, and to drop Anant at the address given on his school badge. Bhupinder Singh added that the child cried on the way home.
When he reached, Gupta's guard, Devender Singh, did not recognise the child, but on the auto-driver's insistence took him inside. Later, Anant's family called Bhupinder inside and gave him sweets.
Anant's maternal grandfather, Kanak Kumar Varshney, also said the child had been handed over to the auto-driver near Apollo hospital and had returned alone. Varshney was so happy that he likened the driver to God, and cried.
Police also denied they arrested anyone innocent while the real kidnappers were on the loose. Anant's father, Naresh Gupta, supported police's story. "I know that those named by the police are behind my son's kidnapping. They are not innocent. I have seen enough data and I am convinced. We have got the child back unharmed, we have got the ransom money and we will get all the accused soon. What else does one want?" he said.
Naresh denied that a Rs five crore ransom was paid. "There is no question of paying Rs five crore. I don't have that money. I would have to sell myself for that," he said.