Meet the team that rescued five-year-old Vihaan from his kidnappers

The rescue operation had been given the codename ‘C-River’ because the kidnappers, in their first ransom call, had called the boy’s parents to Cross River Mall in east Delhi.

delhi Updated: Feb 09, 2018 00:09 IST
Shubhomoy Sikdar
Shubhomoy Sikdar
Hindustan Times
The core team involved in the rescue of five-year-old Vihaan Gupta.

As the core team involved in the rescue of five-year-old Vihaan Gupta gathered again on Thursday, the mood in the room was starkly different from the tense atmosphere during the ‘C-River’ operation.

Till three days ago, the office at Delhi Police Crime Branch office in Shakarpur was the centre of the operation for the safe rescue of Vihaan Gupta, who had been abducted by three men on January 25.

The rescue operation had been given the codename ‘C-River’ because the kidnappers, in their first ransom call, had called the boy’s parents to Cross River Mall in east Delhi.

Tuesday morning’s rescue concluded after a 90-minute car chase and a dramatic shootout which left one of the alleged kidnappers dead and another wounded at the Ghaziabad flat were Vihaan had been held.

The members of the ‘C-River’ team recalled how each of them used their respective expertise in certain domains and past experiences to ensure a sweet conclusion to the operation.

Vihaan’s abduction wasn’t the first time that DCP Ram Gopal Naik, who supervised the C-River operation, found himself in the midst of an operation centred on rescuing a child. When he was the superintendent of police at Vizag, he had been entrusted with the rescue of an 11-year-old who had also been abducted.

“In that case, the kidnappers were using different public phone booths to make ransom calls which made it difficult for us to pinpoint their location. I deployed 500 plainclothes policemen to man each of the 250 phone booths in the city for days. When one of the kidnappers finally used a phone booth to make another ransom demand, our men nabbed him and he led us to the child,” said Naik.

Naik said, like the Vizag case, the first clue in the east Delhi case came from the first ransom call made to Vihaan’s father Sunny Gupta.

Inspector Vinay Tyagi, who was pivotal in executing the operation on the ground, said the team had to skim through several false leads before closing in on the three accused.

“The ransom call to Sunny Gupta was crucial as we could zero in on the location in east Delhi... However, some leads in the case turned out to be false alarms. For instance, one of our teams went to Madhya Pradesh based on a lead provided by the local police, but returned empty handed as the calls turned out to be made from snatched mobiles,” said Tyagi.

Another false lead was caused by a tactic used by the now-injured accused Pankaj who imitated a woman’s voice during the ransom call. The trick partially worked as some investigators thought the kidnapping was done by a gang of eunuchs and even carried out a raid in east Delhi, which turned out to be unsuccessful.

Finally, the callers were identified with the help of the local intelligence network of ASI Rajkumar and head constable Shyam Lal.

Lal, who had been posted in Gokalpuri for a long stint earlier, on February 4 zeroed in on the three men they were looking for — Pankaj, Nitin Sharma and Ravi Pal, all Gokalpuri residents.

“My informers watched the movement all possible suspects in the area and told me that these three men have not been coming home at night consistently since the day the boy was kidnapped. At this point, we started tracking their movements,” Lal said.

On Monday afternoon, the police received tip-off that Nitin Kumar Sharma, the alleged mastermind, would come to Vivek Vihar and managed to overpower him after a long chase.

Vinay Tyagi, who has been part of several encounters in his career, said Tuesday’s shootout was particularly challenging because of the confined space and the fact that the child was inside the flat.

Tyagi and constable Kuldeep were the two officers primarily involved in the final encounter. The bullets which killed Ravi and left Pankaj injured had been fired by these two officers.

“However after the encounter, we were locked outside the flat as the accused (Ravi and Pankaj) had bolted the flat’s iron door from the inside and were now lying injured inside. (Head constable) Shashi Kant, who weighs over 100kg and stands at 6-foot tall, used his strength to pry the door open from a corner. When he managed to partially bend the door open, other officers joined him and we finally managed to get the door open,” Tyagi said.

“We have given Shashi Kant the nickname of Khali after the popular wrestler. On Tuesday night, he lived up to his nickname,” he said.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 00:08 IST