Sunday, June 07, 2009

Faizan Ahmed : Kidnapping is back in Bihar

Is Bihar back in the business of kidnapping?
7 Jun 2009, 0304 hrs IST, Faizan Ahmad, TNN
When eight-year-old Satyam was abducted from the Kankarbagh neighbourhood of the state capital and a ransom of Rs 50 lakh demanded, Bihar was forced to face its worst fears. Could that terrible blight — kidnapping for ransom be returning to the state as a growth industry? But Satyam's body was found soon after and his teenage killers confessed they were trying to act out the film Apaharan. So Satyam's abduction was an aberration. But what of the kidnapping from Patna, just days before, of JD (U) leader Satyendra Kumar. He is yet to be found and the suspects include his relative and former RJD MP Vijay Krishna, who is now in the JD (U). Police suspect Kumar has been murdered. "This is a clear case of murder, not kidnapping. The police is trying to find his body," said additional director general of police Neelmani. Like Satyam, Kumar's disappearance is not thought to be kidnapping for ransom. But during the same period, Rhitik, the son of a doctor, was abducted in Muzaffarpur. Police believe he's still alive. College student Jeetendra Kumar was kidnapped from Bettiah; police believe he's been murdered. These two kidnappings are said to be the handiwork of professional gangs. The sudden spurt in disappearances is thought surprising when Bihar has a pro-active government. Chief minister Nitish Kumar recently went public to say, "I want to assure the people of Bihar that such incidents will not become a trend." Neelmani and other senior police officers play down these incidents, claiming that the peaceful elections and confiscation of weapons had curbed such incidents. But Kumar said the situation couldn't be compared to Bihar's spiral of kidnappings before 2005. Between 1990-2000, Bihar was wracked by institutionalized crime and kidnapping-for-ransom, earning the latter the status of an e-business with the 'e' standing for extortion. That was the time the mafia and dons-turned-MLAs in various jails ran a "syndicate" to coordinate operations. The situation had become so bad that the North Bihar Chamber of Commerce & Industry even sent a memorandum to the then chief minister asking whom if tax should be paid: to the rangdars (extortionists) or the government. East and West Champaran and Bagaha were the worst-affected districts – anyone could be kidnapped for ransom. Bettiah's special public prosecutor Abdul Hai Akhtar summed up the situation, "People would return home in the afternoon and not travel alone after that". But those days are gone. And Bihar is hoping it is past the worst.