The Delhi Police officials had named their operation “C-River” after a mall outside which the kidnappers wanted Rs 60 lakh ransom delivered.
Nearly a week before they rescued five-year-old Vihaan Gupta from a Ghaziabad building on Tuesday, the crime branch officers had substantial clues about the identities of his kidnappers. However, instead of immediately going after them, the cops remained “cautious and patient”. The way in which Vihaan was kidnapped on January 25 from east Delhi was signal enough to the cops that the “trigger-happy” abductors wouldn’t think twice before harming the child.
The police took a “calculated risk in a fraction of a second” in the dramatic last minutes of the operation, said an officer involved in Tuesday’s encounter that left a suspected kidnapper dead.
DCP Ram Gopal Naik said the kidnappers had made the first ransom call at 12.50 am on January 28, nearly three days after they dragged Vihaan out of his school bus at gunpoint in east Delhi’s Dilshad Garden. As repeated ransom calls came in, the police named their operation “C-River”, based on the name of a mall outside which the kidnappers wanted Rs 60 lakh ransom delivered.
“Multiple CCTV cameras had captured the kidnappers when they were fleeing after kidnapping Vihaan. They used to make ransom calls from different locations but there was a pattern to it. We put their phone numbers on surveillance. We understood they were based somewhere in Sahibabad but did not know the exact address where the boy was kept,” said Naik.
On Monday afternoon, the police received tip-off that Nitin Kumar Sharma, the alleged mastermind, would come to Vivek Vihar in east Delhi in the evening to collect food for the child and attend a wedding. A team of 18 men set out in four cars and on four motorcycles. What followed was a 90-minute chase on east Delhi’s congested roads after he was spotted outside a food joint.
“We ensured that he didn’t know that he was being followed and alert other kidnappers. He drank at the wedding and was speeding. But we kept the chase on, moving our cars back and forth so that he doesn’t suspect being trapped,” said inspector Vinay Tyagi, who killed one of the kidnappers in the encounter.
“At one point, we got stuck in a traffic jam and lost sight of him somewhere in Nand Nagri. But our men on motorcycles managed to spot him,” said Tyagi. After a chase of nearly 20 kilometres, we finally intercepted his Swift Dzire car in Seemapuri. He rammed two of our cars in his bid to escape, but we caught him before he could alert his associates,” said Tyagi.
Sharma was soon forced into revealing the kidnappers’ hideout. He also informed that the two abductors in the flat had guns. The police team took him along to the flat located on the fifth floor of a multi-storey building in Shalimar City, a housing society in Ghaziabad’s Sahibabad.
At 12.50 am on Tuesday, the police team raided the flat. Tyagi and a police commando, led the team while others followed them. “We told Sharma to ask his friends to open the door. They opened the wooden door, but did not unlock the iron gates because they got suspicious,” said DCP Naik, who led the rescue operation.
“When we told them that police have surrounded them, both of them rushed inside and brought out guns. They began firing at us. The commando and I were hit. We took a quick, calculated risk and reacted in a fraction of a second. I shot back in self-defence,” said Tyagi.
One man was hit in his neck and immediately collapsed. “The other man tried to run into the boy’s room, possibly to kill him or took him hostage. But I fired again, hitting him in his leg. His gun fell down,” said Tyagi.
The policemen joined hands to break the locked iron gate. “The injured kidnapper was trying to reach for his gun but the commando pointed his AK47 assault rifle at him, telling him not to try anything stupid,” said Tyagi.
Moments later, the DCP rushed to the bedroom to pick the terrified boy in his arms. “He was screaming. It was the second time he had witnessed gunshots. I picked him in my arms and convinced him that we were not criminals,” said the DCP.