Another Indian kidnapped, panic in Kathmandu
Mar 9, 2007 - 11:25:29 AM

Kathmandu, March 9 - There is mounting panic in Nepal's business community with yet another Indian being kidnapped from a busy area of the capital, making it at least the 20th abduction in less than four months.

Indian Umesh Garg, whose father Ram Babu Garg and uncle Mohan Singh Garg run a prominent transport business in the city, was abducted about 10 days ago from Teku, a busy commercial area.

He was released last week after his family quietly paid ransom to the kidnappers.

Garg was snatched the same day another kidnap victim was released after his family too quietly negotiated with the abductors without going to the police or media.

The week before, Pramod Agrawal, an importer and wholesaler running the Pawan-Pramod Wholesalers firm in partnership with his elder brother Pawan Agrawal, was kidnapped from near his home on New Road, in the heart of the city's business area.

Since January 21 abductions targeting the Marwari community have taken place in the capital itself, members of the community say. In the last 30 days, there have been four abductions, all in the city.

Fear stalks the community, which says it has become a 'soft target' for organised crime gangs since they are a non-violent people who believe in doing business in peace.

'We don't take up arms or block roads by burning tyres,' prominent businessman Binod Chaudhary lamented at a recent conference of Marwaris. 'When we are victimised and complain to police, policemen harass us, the victims.'

A small-time Marwari businessman, whose son was kidnapped in January and released after the payment of ransom, is exceedingly cynical about police.

'We called police within minutes of my son being lifted,' he said. 'We gave them the description of the car, its colour and make. We even told them it had broken windows after my son tried to resist.

'How many garages are there in Kathmandu? The police could have easily caught them if they had wanted.'

The Marwari community, a class of businessmen including both Indians and people of Indian origin who are now Nepali citizens, are regarded as rich people who do not want trouble and would pay up to have their kin freed unharmed.

'Earlier, the towns along the Indo-Nepal border faced the kidnapping problem,' industrialist Rajendra Khetan had told IANS earlier. 'We used to attribute them to the gangs from India. Now they have become frequent in the capital. If you are not safe in the capital, where can you find security?'

Members of the community also complain that they are virtually in a no man's land with neither the Nepal government nor the Indian government concerned about their welfare.

'Would you find this happening to Europeans, Americans or even the Chinese?' asked a Marwari businessman active in the Marwari Seva Samiti.

'Their governments would come down on the Nepal government heavily if such a thing happened. But neither New Delhi nor Kathmandu cares for us.'

Marwari families have stopped reporting kidnappings to the police after repeated inaction. Nor are such cases reported in the local media. Indeed, affected families prefer to hush it up, after being threatened by the kidnappers not to go public.

One kidnap that hit the headlines in January was the abduction of the three-year-old son of a well-known Indian heart specialist.

In an audacious and well-planned operation, the gang went to the city residence of Deepak Kaushal, pretending to be patients.

After being admitted, they held the family at gunpoint, looted cash and valuables and took off with the doctor's son Arman. Despite Kaushal's prominent status, the police are yet to catch the gang.

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