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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Indian kidnapped, released in Kathmandu
May 9, 2007 - 12:53:49 PM
A culture of silence prevails among the victims. No one wants to seek police help for fear of harm as well as skepticism about the police's ability or will to catch the perpetrators.

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[RxPG] Kathmandu, May 9 - An Indian student here was the latest target of kidnapping gangs preying on Indians - he was released over the weekend - even as Nepal Police claimed a breakthrough with the busting of two gangs.

Ashutosh Bhardwaj, a 31-year-old intern at the Kathmandu Medical College, reportedly suffered a long ordeal before his family and friends could negotiate with his kidnappers and secure his release.

Bhardwaj, whose family comes from Mathura in India's Uttar Pradesh state, had been living in Kathmandu for four years.

On April 27, when he was heading for his residence near the Chinese embassy, he was kidnapped from near the city's prime shopping centre frequented by Indians - Bhat Bhateni.

He was released Sunday after which he is said to have headed for India.

Though the Indian embassy said it had not received any official complaint about Bhardwaj's kidnap, the Indian student hit the headlines in Nepal Wednesday when a leading tabloid providing details about the kidnapping said the first ransom calls were made to a leading Nepali actress.

Bipana Thapa, one of the best-known heroines of Kollywood, Nepal's film industry, received the first calls from the kidnappers due to her closeness to the Indian, Jana Aastha weekly reported.

Speaking in Hindi, the callers reportedly demanded NRS.2.5 million for Bhardwaj's release, which was later brought down substantially, the tabloid said.

They also allowed Bhardwaj to speak to her, the report said.

According to the report, the kidnapped man's family contacted the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, which pressured Nepal Police to launch a manhunt.

However, no one has been arrested so far.

None of the kidnaps targeting Indians or people of Indian origin have seen the victims getting justice.

The police last month claimed to have made a breakthrough with the arrest of two separate gangs, one of which they said had been especially preying on the Marwari community of India.

A culture of silence prevails among the victims. No one wants to seek police help for fear of harm as well as skepticism about the police's ability or will to catch the perpetrators.

Bhardwaj's classmates at the medical college said they had noticed his absence but presumed he had gone home. Some even said he had taken about 10 days' leave to go home.

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