Over a decade ago a close family friend underwent a traumatic experience in Bangalore which I want to share here. I can personally vouch for the authenticity of this report as I know the person for 30+ years. It proved to me that in India people with political connections can get away with any crime. Ordinary people like you and me can become victims.
All names have been changed to protect our friend from further harassment.
This is the account in our friend’s own words:
On 28 April, S Ravindran, along with Saleem Mukesh came to my home (BTM Layout), at about 1.00 P.M. and asked my wife, Mangala, where I was as they had some official work with me. My wife gave them my office telephone number.
At around 2.15 p.m. the same day as I was returning from lunch, I received a call from the telephone operator of my company, a multinational company, telling me that one S Ravindran (which rang a bell as it was the same last name as a very powerful politician) had come to meet me. When I entered the office, Ravindran questioned me as to why I was making calls to his wife. When I asked him to elaborate, he said that about a week back I was supposed to have made calls from my mobile number to the mobile of his wife, when I allegedly asked her to meet me, implying that she had met me in a restaurant. Ravindran further accused me of having said that she herself had given me the number.
I did not immediately realise what had happened, but did so subsequently. However, I will recount the background here, before I tell the rest of the story:
One of my German associates (let’s call him MB) who was around 25 years of age, had used my mobile to make some calls about a week before S Ravindran came to my office. This was not the first time that MB had visited India. Six months earlier on his trip to India he had met a girl called Rehana at a restaurant on Vellara Junction, Hosur Road. My other colleagues from India, Germany and Korea were present on this day (including me) where we had all gone for drinks and dinner. MB became friendly with Rehana and told her to call my mobile as his was an international roaming number so that I could save the number on my mobile. She called and my mobile saved the number.
After MB left India, I deleted the number from my mobile as I was not comfortable with the idea of keeping a telephone number of a girl like this on my mobile. When MB again visited India, he wanted to speak to Rehana. This, as I mentioned earlier, happened a week before I met Ravindran. I told MB that I had deleted the number. He, however, insisted on checking my mobile and found the number of one Rehana on my mobile. I thought perhaps that the number had not got deleted. MB then tried to speak to Rehana and called her 2-3 times. The calls must have lasted for a few seconds each. As Rehana did not show any inclination to meet him, MB gave up.
What I did not know at the time was this was another Rehana, whose number was on my mobile. At an exhibition in Mysore I had met another lady by the name of Rehana who was the coordinator at an exhibition where my company had a stall, and which required me to talk to her on the telephone several times. I saved her number on my mobile and after the Mysore exhibition was over, I forgot about the number, and her name as well. Rehana also called me several times during the course of the exhibition).
When Ravindran started shouting on top of his voice in my office and making a scene, I did not immediately recall the above. I was a little flummoxed and told him and Mukesh that they should talk softly and if need be, we could go out for a discussion. At the same time my mind was racing as to what calls had been made from my mobile a week earlier. By now they had told me that my mobile service provider had given them my home address and I was fuming as to how they had dared to give my residence address to some goons without any official authority.
Outside the office there was a parked Lancer along side of which was an Inspector and a constable from the nearby police station. I was a little intimidated by the police presence and when they ordered me to get in the car and accompany them to the police station I did so thinking that at the police station matters would be sorted out. I went with them secure in my innocence and secure that everything would be sorted out. I kept telling these men that this was probably a case of mistaken identity but they did not pay heed.
I kept saying that I had not called any girl called Rehana and they said I was a liar and that I had got Rehana’s number from Mukesh’s personal digital assistant. Apparently, Rehana was his girlfriend. I told him that I had no knowledge of the PDA but they insisted I had stolen it. I kept denying it but they did not seem to care and I soon realised that they were not taking me to the police station. I told them to take me to the police station, but instead they took me to a hotel in Bommasandra. I was surrounded by these two men and two policemen, and could do nothing.
Soon after the real intentions of the two kidnappers came out. They told me that if I wanted to be let go I needed to give them Rs 50,000. If I didn’t they would meet with seniors in my company and expose me. They wanted to know the name of the person to whom I had allegedly sold the stolen PDA, and the amount that I received for the stolen PDA. He mentioned that the PDA is worth Rs.60000/-.
I asked them from where could I have stolen the PDA. They said that the PDA was on the car roof outside Mr Mukesh’s house, which apparently was also in BTM layout! When Mr Mukesh went to the garage for a short while, the PDA was stolen. Mr Mukesh was very upset when I asked him where he was staying in BTM and asked me loudly to just shut up.
They sat down to lunch but I declined to eat anything, telling them that I had already eaten. They asked my salary and when I told them it was only Rs 25,000 p.m. and that I could not pay such a huge amount as my bank balance did not have it. So they allowed me to call my father to ask for the money.
My father, who was in Delhi at the time got a shock when he realised that I had been kidnapped, and told me that he would try and call some people to get me freed. But the kidnappers realised that something was askew and snatched my mobile from me. I mentioned to Mr Ravindran that he could not keep my mobile forcibly after which he switched off the mobile and gave it to the police inspector.
They had a good lunch, were enjoying themselves, laughing, talking something in Kannada to the police persons & appeared delighted at my plight.
Whenever I said anything to protest my innocence, they accused me in front of the police persons to be mentally imbalanced because the police persons had to have a good lunch.
After lunch, Mr Mukesh paid the bill. I again requested for my mobile, which they gave me. In the parking lot of the hotel, when my father again called, Ravindran again snatched my mobile. My father told him that he would be talking to the Police Commissioner. This was the final straw for them after which, although they never told me where they were going, decided to take me to my office to “expose” me. I kept saying that we should go to the police station but they did not take me there.
All this while they kept asking for money and I kept refusing. And Ravindran kept saying that he is D. Ravindran’s nephew & that I should just do what he says.
By now my father had called up my office and told the Manager Administration, that I was being held somewhere in the presence of police persons and that my office should take some action.
They again asked me to pay the money immediately. I again refused. After this, they again told me to shut up for half an hour and just do what they were saying. All this took place in the presence of the police persons.
We went to the office (my MD & JMD were not there). But the manager admin and the Customer Support Manager met with Mr Ravindran, Mr Mukesh & I. We all went to our conference room, where they told our Managers that I have made calls to Mr Mukesh’s fiancée at odd hours talking about some restaurant and that I stole their PDA to get the mobile number of Mr Mukesh’s fiancée. They demanded compensation for the loss of the PDA. I intervened and denied the allegation. Mr Ravindran again accused me of being mentally imbalanced.
The manager admin then called up Rehana, on whose mobile the call was made. I could not understand what she said. Apparently, she confirmed that she had got the call from my mobile.
Meanwhile, my father had called up the police in Pune and another friend my father’s spoke with an ACP in Bangalore. All this while, Ravindran & Mukesh insisted that I had stolen their PDA and that I should either substitute a new PDA or compensate them monetarily.
In the meantime, I got a call from a senior police officer (DCP) known to my father and although the operator transferred the call to the conference room. While I was talking to the DCP, Ravindran snatched the phone from my hand. This was in the presence of the police persons, Mukesh, and the managers of my company.
At this stage, Ravindran said the courts had closed as it was already past 1600 hours and that I could not get bail then. He then threatened me with arrest unless I paid up. I kept on insisting that I am not going to pay & let the law take its course. In the meantime, Ravindran threatened that he will call the Times of India and tell them that I, an employee of such and such company, was a thief. At that time, in the panic situation, I did not realise that no one could arrest me without an arrest warrant.
My company officials started to pressurise me to pay up and that they would handle the situation later. Under duress and pressure from my Company, I agreed to pay. Mr Ravindran said I could give a cheque for Rs.30000/-on Mukesh’s name to which Mr Mukesh did not agree unless I give a letter with the cheque mentioning that I was giving the cheque in lieu of the PDA, which I had stolen. I refused to give such a letter. Mr Mukesh said in such a case, he wants no record & wants only cash. I said that I do not have the cash and I could borrow money from the company cashier only after the return of the Managing Director of the company (who was travelling).
They then said that I could give a self-cheque of Rs.30000/- for exchange for cash the next day, which they will come to collect. As I did not have my chequebook in the office, Mr Ravindran along with the Karnataka police constable accompanied me in my car to my home, took the cheque & left with Mr Mukesh, who was following our car. While I gave a self-cheque, I did not sign at the back of the cheque, making it invalid for encashment.
This was not the end of the matter. I had approached the police station and talked to an ACP. Although he was nice to me on my face, after some hours he called me up and abused me and told me that I better pay up!
A few days later Mukesh called up my colleague Mr D and wanted to know why we had not come to deliver the cash. Mr D referred the matter to me and I immediately called up Mukesh and told him that we were waiting for him in our office. Mukesh rudely and loudly blurted that he will not come. I explained to him that this has now become company matter and he would have to come to the office, which he refused. I asked him whether this was his final decision and hung up. Mukesh again called up my company and spoke to the manager admin to ask when the money was going to be paid.
My father had managed by now to get in touch with a senior police official in the Bangalore police. This police officer called me and Mukesh to the police station to sort out matters. Mukesh did not turn up. That was indeed the end of the matter but during the days when this was going on my wife and I suffered some sleepless nights.
After the whole episode, I have a few questions:
Can I file a case against harassment & mental torture?
Can I file a case against defamation because of an allegation of theft of the PDA?
Can I file a case against character assassination for falsely accusing me of calling up someone’s wife/fiancée, on a case of mistaken identity?
Can I file a case against the mobile service provider for giving my house address to some extortionists?
Can I file a case against manhandling & snatching away mobile/phone from my hand?
Alternatively, is it better to close the case without paying the extortion money but requesting the Karnataka police to initiate action against the blackmailers?
Finally, I did nothing as no further calls came to me. I realised that I had been saved because my father had connections in the police establishment. I wonder what would have happened to someone who didn’t have any connections. He would have had to pay his hard-earned money to these thieves. And I am quite sure that many did as this useless relative of the powerful politician was a goonda.