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Tackling kidnapping

'Never say no' is the mantra senior Delhi police officers are prescribing to parents to deal with their child's kidnappers in such a situation, report Tushar Srivastava and Neha Mehta.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2006 01:57 IST

It is every parent's worst nightmare: to discover that their child has gone missing, and then hearing a gruff voice over the phone bark out orders to pay up, or else.

'Never say no' is the mantra senior Delhi police officers are prescribing to parents to deal with their child's kidnappers in such a situation.

And with Delhi having acquired the dubious distinction of becoming the kidnap capital of the country — having overtaken even Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — it is a mantra that many parents may have to abide by in the days to come.

Senior Delhi Police officers who have handled the trickiest of situations emphasise: prolong the conversation, gain the kidnapper's confidence and maintain your cool even if you are being abused and threatened by the man on the other side as he has the 'trump card' — your child — in his custody.

Says Karnal Singh, joint commissioner, special cell, whose team cracked the sensational Tarun Puri kidnapping case in 1997 and, more recently, the kidnapping of a minor from Civil Lines in north Delhi, "Never say you will not pay. And at the same time never commit that you will pay."

He adds, "You have to keep on negotiating and try and bring down the amount as much as possible."

The thumb rule, according to Alok Kumar, DCP, special cell, "is to elicit as much information as possible and to ensure that negotiations do not break down."

Says psychologist Rajat Mitra, who, as part of his NGO Swanchetan's work, has helped families negotiate with kidnappers, "Do not be hysterical or aggressive when dealing with the kidnappers. Remember, you can still feel, breathe, think and speak."

It is important to be able to ‘bond’ with the kidnappers, as that makes it difficult for them to harm your child. Dr Mitra advises parents to seek the help of experienced police officers and mental health professionals to assess the level of threat and negotiate more effectively.

It is also important to get proof that your child is alive and no harm has been done to him. This, Singh says, should not just comprise a hurried conversation with the child over the phone, as kidnappers may play taped conversations.

"If you talk on the phone, make it a point to ask a question, so that your child replies. If you have doubts, ask the kidnappers for proof," he says. This could be in the form of his photograph being taken along with the same day's newspaper.

First timers, senior officers say, can harm the child and it has to be ensured that they do not panic. The only way to do that is to keep a channel of communication open with them.

When three-year-old Anant was kidnapped from outside his Noida residence on November 13, his mother Nidhi received over a dozen threatening calls from the kidnappers. "The kidnappers tried to scare us and make us emotionally unstable," her husband, Adobe India CEO Naresh Gupta told the HT.

To win their confidence, Nidhi told them that they had no confidence in the police and they would do only what the accused would ask them to do.

Explains Gupta, "You need to buy time. Discussions with the kidnappers involve the safety of the child, whether he is eating properly, negotiating the ransom amount, how and where is the money to be paid, etc. The more you talk to them, the better idea you get about them, which ultimately helps in investigation."

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Neha Mehta:

First Published: Nov 26, 2006 01:57 IST