The abduction of a prominent Gaya-based doctor and his wife on the busy Grand Trunk Road has sent shockwaves across Bihar.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Gupta and his wife Shubhra have been untraceable since Friday afternoon. Police fear they were kidnapped for ransom while returning from a wedding at Giridih in Jharkand to their home in Gaya.
Gupta’s family became concerned when the couple's mobile phones were found to be switched off around the time they were expected to reach home.
A case of kidnapping was registered at Barachatti police station in Gaya, superintendent of police P Kanan said. However, police have so far not confirmed whether the Gupta family has received a ransom call.
Almost two days after the couple's mobiles fell silent, police are yet to find clues to the whereabouts of Gupta and his wife and the Audi car in which they were travelling.
An angry Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Sunday served an ultimatum to the government, warning it would paralyse medical services across Bihar if the couple is not traced by Monday.
“We have given an ultimatum, as this is a serious matter related to the safety of doctors," said Sahjanand Singh, president of the IMA’s state unit.
Senior police officials investigating the incident said the abduction could be the handiwork of an inter-state gang.
“There is no ransom call yet. Perhaps, the abductors might be in a wait and watch mode. Safe recovery of the couple is top on our priority list. We don’t want to jump to any conclusion at this stage,” a senior official said.
Other senior officials, including inspector general of police (Patna zone) AK Ambedkar and inspector general of police (CID) Vinay Kumar, were looking at the case from all angles. The two officials are camping in Gaya to oversee the probe.
“Preliminary investigations and the modus operandi used in the kidnapping point to the involvement of an organised gang. Hopefully, we will detect the gang soon,” said an official.
Police are facing problems is tracing Gupta’s high-end vehicle, which has a GPS system. An official said the GPS had not been activated and its password was not known.
Gupta is well-known in Gaya and is a member of the central Bihar chamber of commerce. He is the son of a leading businessman. The Gupta family too suspects it is a case of abduction for ransom.
“We are on job and looking at the case from all angles. As there has been no ransom call yet, it is difficult to say anything at this stage,” said DGP PK Thakur.
Kannan said a team has been formed for the safe recovery of the couple and raids were being conducted to locate those who might be involved in the abduction.
The incident comes close on the heels of the ruling JD (U) announcing its merger with Lalu Prasad’s RJD, and the opposition BJP wasted no time in attacking the state government over the “revival of jungle raj”.
The period when the RJD was in power in Bihar during 1990-2005 was often described as “jungle rule”, an allusion to the difficult law and order situation.
Gupta is the first leading doctor to be kidnapping in Bihar this year, a state infamous for its “abduction industry” during 1990-2005.
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA was voted to power in 2005, following a campaign in which the 'jungle raj' was the main issue.
This was followed by the introduction of the concept of speedy trials and a high rate of convictions. At the time the BJP was an ally in the ruling coalition that successfully established rule of law and instilled fear in the minds of criminals.
“During RJD rule, kidnappers were patronised by politicians and police. The same age is returning now, with the same forces joining hands with JD-U leader Nitish Kumar. If a leading doctor is not safe, who is?” said BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav.