Families of Bihar kidnapped spend dark Diwali


Patna : It was a dark Diwali in hundreds of homes across Bihar this year as the families of those kidnapped in the last few years spent the day in gloom and despair, praying for the safe return of their loved ones.

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According to official sources in the police headquarters here, 45 people have been abducted for ransom in the state from January to July this year. It was higher than last year when 32 were abducted for ransom in the like period.

Three months ago, the Bihar government officially admitted that between 2001 and 2009, 2,167 children were kidnapped. Of them, 1,752 were found and 75 killed while the fate of 340 is still not known.

“We have stopped celebrating Diwali for the last three years. There is no question of celebrating Diwali with my son not around,” said Anju Pandey, mother of 12-year-old Akash who was kidnapped on way to school here Aug 10, 2007.

Akash’s father Yogendra Pandey said the family prayed for Akash’s safe return on Diwali. “We only prayed to god for his well-being,” he said.

For Akash’s sisters Akanksha and Ankita, Diwali night Saturday was without festivity. “We cannot enjoy the festival without our brother,” Ankita said tears welling up in her eyes.

Some other families, whose near and dear ones have been missing for months or years, spent a dark Diwali.

There was sadness in Sunaina Devi’s home. She, along with her two children, spent Diwali in darkness to protest the police failure to find her husband, Mahesh Rai, who has been missing for over three years. Sunaina had approached top cops and even the chief minister, but to no avail.

Rai, a businessman, was abducted along with three others from a restaurant in Hajipur in Vaishali district in 2006. Rai was the sole bread earner of the family. Sunaina attempted suicide two years ago to protest the police failure to trace her husband.

Another person, Savita Devi, prayed for the safe return of her son Satish Kumar, who was kidnapped in 2007 from Sonepur in Saran district. She has met the chief minister on six occasions during the ‘Janata Darbars’ or public audiences he conducts to interact with the people, but to no avail. She has now threatened to commit suicide.

The scene was no different in six-year-old Ankit’s home here. Ankit was kidnapped in April 2007 from outside his school and suspected to have been killed. But Ankit’s parents do not accept the police theory as his body is yet to be found. “We still believe Ankit is alive,” his mother Poonam said.

A similar story was at the home of Dineshwar Kaushik, a police official who has been missing since December 2004. His family allege he was kidnapped from Hajipur, district headquarters of Vaishali.

It was a gloomy Diwali at the home of businessman Satyendra Singh, who was abducted and shot dead here this year by a Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader and former MP Vijay Krishna.

Several families with similar stories in Patna, Begusarai, Vaishali, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Chapra and other districts also did not celebrate Diwali.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who came to power in November 2005, had promised to turn Bihar into a crime-free state within three months.

Hardly a day passes without local dailies reporting at least one or two cases of kidnapping. Lawyers, doctors and wealthy businessmen have been the prime targets of extortionists. Hundreds of well-to-do professionals have migrated to bigger cities or sent their children to boarding schools.