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Gudi Padwa drama: Kidnapped infant rescued in 12 hours

Manthan, who turns 6 months today, was snatched from his mother’s arms by two bike-borne men while she was on her way to Thane to buy him clothes for Gudi Padwa on Sunday; cops rescued the boy within 12 hours

On the eve of Gudi Padwa, the Katkars of Airoli suffered the most harrowing 12 hours of their life. Their infant had been kidnapped in broad daylight, snatched from the mother’s arms by two motorcycle-borne men.

At 11.32 am on Sunday, Sunita Katkar gets into a shared auto with her infant son, Manthan, in Airoli, to go to Thane to shop for him. A woman is already sitting in the auto. Illustrations/Amit Bandre
At 11.32 am on Sunday, Sunita Katkar gets into a shared auto with her infant son, Manthan, in Airoli, to go to Thane to shop for him. A woman is already sitting in the auto. Illustrations/Amit Bandre

But thanks to the galvanic action of the police, their ordeal ended just as the new year began. The cops traced the boy, who turns six months today, just past midnight.

At 11.40 am, near Chinchpada, the auto driver deliberately drops his slipper and halts the vehicle, apparently to retrieve it
At 11.40 am, near Chinchpada, the auto driver deliberately drops his slipper and halts the vehicle, apparently to retrieve it

Sagar Katkar, father of the baby, Manthan, said, “We were so worried for the boy. We are really lucky that we got him back on the auspicious day of Gudi Padwa. We could not have asked for a better start to the new year.”

Suddenly, two men on a bike race to the auto, snatch the baby from Sunita’s hands and speed away, while her co-passenger and the auto driver look on
Suddenly, two men on a bike race to the auto, snatch the baby from Sunita’s hands and speed away, while her co-passenger and the auto driver look on

A little before noon on Sunday, Sunita (25), Manthan’s mother, who was staying at her mother’s in Airoli, was on her way to Thane to buy her son new clothes for Gudi Padwa.

Sunita tells her husband, Sagar, and the distraught couple reports the matter to the police
Sunita tells her husband, Sagar, and the distraught couple reports the matter to the police

She got into a shared rickshaw near the house. A few kilometres into the commute, near Chinchpada, the auto driver’s slipper fell off and he halted the rickshaw to retrieve it. It was around 11.40 am. Suddenly, a bike-borne duo raced toward the stationary auto, grabbed the boy from Sunita’s arms and sped away.

Meanwhile, the baby is taken to Vithalwadi a far suburb on the central railway line near Ambernath by the kidnappers, with the help of another woman, who keeps him at her house
Meanwhile, the baby is taken to Vithalwadi a far suburb on the central railway line near Ambernath by the kidnappers, with the help of another woman, who keeps him at her house

As the police later ascertained, the auto driver, who was part of the kidnapping ploy, had deliberately stopped the vehicle for the bikers. There was a woman sharing the auto with Sunita, and she was also part of the caper, cops said.

The police question the Katkar family members and narrow down on all the people who knew that Sunita would take the child to Thane, and zoom in on a family acquaintance as a suspect
The police question the Katkar family members and narrow down on all the people who knew that Sunita would take the child to Thane, and zoom in on a family acquaintance as a suspect

Sagar said, “I was at work when I got to know about this, and we completely panicked. My son turns six months on April 1 and we were looking forward to it.

Search teams scour the city and trace the baby’s whereabouts in Vithalwadi; they find that the accused, Abhay Sarang, had taken the baby out of for a stroll
Search teams scour the city and trace the baby’s whereabouts in Vithalwadi; they find that the accused, Abhay Sarang, had taken the baby out of for a stroll

Now, my thoughts were concentrated solely on how to get him back. But meanwhile, my wife got an asthma attack and was admitted to a hospital nearby.” The family lodged a case with the Rabale MIDC police station.

By midnight, cops nab all the accused and unravel the plot, in which the co-passenger, the auto driver, the two bikers and the woman who kept the baby at her house were all involved
By midnight, cops nab all the accused and unravel the plot, in which the co-passenger, the auto driver, the two bikers and the woman who kept the baby at her house were all involved

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Suresh Mengade of Navi Mumbai police (zone I) said, “When we looked at the crime records, we realised that such an incident had never occurred.

Parents Sagar and Sunita Katkar with Manthan, who will complete six months today
Parents Sagar and Sunita Katkar with Manthan, who will complete six months today

We decided to accelerate the search, fearing that if the kidnappers took the kid outside Mumbai it would be difficult to trace him. After interrogating the family, we tried to establish who all were aware of Sunita’s plan to go to Thane on Sunday morning.” Six different police teams began combing the city, and finally, past midnight, Manthan was traced at Vithalwadi.

While his family was elated to have little Manthan back at home in Airoli, the child seemed to have little idea of the ordeal he had been through.  Pics/Sameer Markande
While his family was elated to have little Manthan back at home in Airoli, the child seemed to have little idea of the ordeal he had been through.  Pics/Sameer Markande

Copspeak
Police officials said that the infant was kidnapped by an estate agent by the name of Abhay Sarang (47), who was known to the family. Sarang, a father of two schoolgirls, was longing for a male child, cops said, and sketched a plan to acquire someone else’s (see box).

“He had planned the entire kidnapping, and the auto driver, Arun Kumar Maurya (22), was involved in it. There was another woman, Lata Bastha (35) in the shared auto, who was also part of the plan. The baby was handed over to the estate agent who took him to the home of a woman he considered his sister.

When the police finally reached the woman’s house, they found that the baby had been taken outside as he was feeling hot in the house, which had asbestos roofing,” said police officials. The boy was handed over to the mother post-midnight, while she was still admitted at Mahajan Hospital in Rabale, following the asthma attack.

Sagar said, “My wife was discharged from the hospital at 3 pm today. The baby was with her the whole time after the cops brought him back and she wouldn’t let him out of her sight.”

For the couple, the celebratory mood, both for the boy’s biannual and the Marathi new year, was restored. On Monday morning, the accused were produced in the holiday court at Vashi, and they have been remanded in police custody till April 2.

Kidnappers were to get Rs 25,000
The main accused, Abhay Sarang, had got to know that Sunita Katkar would take her child to Thane to shop for clothes for him. He decided to pay R25,000 to the two men for kidnapping the baby. He had already given them Rs 7,000 in advance. According to the police, Sarang intended to leave the child alone at a temple, then take his wife there and lead her to believe that Manthan was an abandoned baby. He hoped that she would take pity on the baby and agree with him if he then suggested to her that they should take care of the child as it was God’s will.

Charges against accused
Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: Whoever kidnaps any person from India or from lawful guardianship, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. Section 34 of IPC: Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention; when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.

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