A curious case of abduction. A puzzling narrative by the victim. An end result however of brutal and horrific death. Surajkumar Mithilesh Dubey, a 27 year old Navy sailor, a native of Jharkhand, who was attached to INS Agrani, a Navy training establishment at Coimbatore, was abducted, allegedly by three people from outside Chennai airport on January 31, died of burn injuries after he was set on fire on a hillock in Palghar district, the police said on Saturday, as reported by The New Indian Express. He had sustained 90 percent burn injuries and succumbed on Friday, the police said. According to the police, he informed them of details of the alleged abduction and extortion attempt by the trio before his death. The police are in the process of verifying his statement.
In Jharkhand, Dubey’s family informed the police on February 1 that he went missing on January 30, after he left for INS Agrani Unit in Coimbatore, via Chennai. A resident of Purvadiha village of Chainpur block, in Jharkhand’s Daltonganj district, Dubey’s father, Mithilesh Dubey, in a police complaint on February 1 said that his son left for duty on January 30, but his phone remained switched off since 6.46 am that day.
The family also approached Palamu MP, V D Ram, who wrote to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, requesting him to look into the matter for the distressed family and expedite the process of investigation. In his letter to the Defence Minister, local MP Ram wrote: “(Local) police investigation led to the uncovering of the following: the last location of Mr Suraj Kumar Dubey was traced back to airport Metro Station Meenambakkam Chennai. A local inquiry led to further information about Dubey being dropped near NSG camp, Otteri Police Station, by a taxi driver. However, no further clues have been found during the course of the investigation.”
Narrating his ordeal to the police before his death, he took a flight from Ranchi around 8 am on January 30. Around 9 pm, when he stepped out of the airport, three people in their forties held him at gunpoint and took away his mobile phone. The trio came in a white SUV and forced him to get into it. They then demanded a ransom of Rs 10 lakh and for three days kept him in Chennai, however, he could not specify where in Chennai he was held. The abductors subsequently drove him from Chennai to Palghar, and around 9 am Friday, they allegedly tied his hands and marched him to the top of a hillock at Vevji forests, at Gholwad in Dahanu, he told the police.
Investigators said the climb to the hilltop would have taken at least 25-30 minutes. Dubey told the police that the men left him there for dead after dousing him with petrol with the intention of killing him. According to India Today, several hours later, local residents spotted him and informed the police, who took him to Cottage hospital in Dahanu. From there, he was moved to Mumbai’s Sion hospital – he had sustained 90 percent burn injuries.
Palghar SP Datta Shinde said, “Since he was found in Palghar, Gholwad police station (there) has registered an FIR on charges of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, robbery, wrongful confinement, and common intention. A case has been registered against three unidentified persons, the SDPO of Dahanu division has been asked to investigate the matter further.”
In a statement, the Defence PRO stated, “A Naval sailor, Suraj Kumar Dubey, L/S (Leading Seaman), age 26 yrs of INS Agrani, on leave from the unit, was found in Palghar, Maharashtra with 90 percent burns on the morning of 5th February. He was brought to INHS Asvini and declared DOA (dead on arrival). A case has been registered at Palghar police station and the SP, Palghar is investigating the matter.”
In Maharashtra, an official familiar with the investigation said Dubey’s family members have been informed and his father and brother would be coming to the city to collect his body.
An officer said some aspects of Dubey’s statement were puzzling. “Several things about the version of events given by the deceased are not adding up – like why the accused would demand Rs 10 lakh ransom when there was nothing to indicate he had a lot of money, and why the accused, if they were robbers, drove him all the way to Palghar from Chennai,” the officer said to The Indian Express. “We are looking at CCTV cameras outside Chennai airport and checking call data records to find more about the identity of the accused. We will also be talking to his family, friends, and colleagues to find out if there was some personal enmity or any threats that he had spoken about,” the officer added.
A high priority investigation is necessary to determine how Dubey, who was abducted in Chennai, was brought to Gholvad and that too at such a remote location. The police must act at breakneck speed to nab the criminals. Also, another pressing matter is the inefficiency of the police. Dubey’s family filed a missing person’s complaint on February 1st, along with accurate details of his last seen location. Despite his last known location being a high-security area with ample CCTV surveillance, why it took the police Dubey’s death to finally decide to access those tapes in order to figure out the clues, remains a big question.