Eight-year-old Salman Ahmed could not make it to the evening roll call on Monday. He was sitting tied up and gagged in a toilet.
Authorities at Indian Public School outside Dehradun scrambled and looked for the Class III student, who had apparently been abducted from the boarding school, located in the thickly forested countryside. Police were informed.
Then the principal’s phone rang. It was the kidnapper himself. The young voice wanted Rs 50 lakh in ransom — an amount he quickly brought down to Rs 10 lakh when the principal said there was no way such a sum could be paid.
By the morning, the child — who is from Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh — was found in a bathroom within the school campus, and the mystery unravelled: he had allegedly been kidnapped by a senior student of the school itself because he was upset with school authorities.
An identification parade was soon conducted and Ahmed identified Subodh Singh, a Class X student. Singh had gotten admitted into the school’s infirmary and had allegedly switched off his phone and broken the SIM card of his mobile immediately after making the ransom call, police said.
Singh was immediately arrested by the police, allegedly confessed to the abduction, and was charged with extortion and wrongful confinement. He was produced in court on Wednesday and remanded to a child welfare home.
Singh’s father works in a security-related firm hired by the school. He has received a full-scholarship from the school for the past five years and there had been no previous complaint against him of any nature, school authorities said.
“After recovering from his initial shock, Salman said that he was playing in the tennis court on Monday evening when the accused came and offered to buy him some chocolates,” said B.C. Kumar, the school’s vice-president for administration. “He was then taken to a toilet on the first floor of the school building and bound and gagged.”
The principal, SC Biala, was unavailable for comment.
Police said Singh wanted to make some quick money and get back at the school officials.
“Subodh was unhappy with the school authorities as they had not taken action against some students who had beaten him last year for allegedly stealing a SIM card — he wanted to teach them a lesson,” said SS Kushwaha, who heads the local police station.