A sailor of the Indian Navy, 27-year-old Suraj Kumar Dubey, died after he was abducted from Chennai and set on fire in Palgarh, Maharashtra. Dubey who hailed from Palamu, Jharkhand was engaged for marriage on 15 January.
His family has several questions, as mystery shrouds his demise.
The Quint looks into the dubious case:
Why was Dubey taken from Chennai and brought 1,400 km away, to the jungles of Maharashtra’s Palghar, to be burnt alive? Why did his abductors who wanted Rs 10 lakh from his family not call them with a ransom demand?
Unanswered Calls, Family Lodged Complaint Early
Dubey’s brother Neeraj Dubey told The Quint, “On 30 January, I had gone to the Daltonganj bus stand to drop off Suraj. From there he caught the bus to Ranchi at 9 am. From there, he had a flight to Hyderabad at 4:15 pm. I received a call from him at 6.46 pm when he told he had reached Hyderabad. He told me that he had his next flight to Chennai and then a train to Coimbatore at 11:40 pm.”
At 6 am on 31 January, Dubey’s father Mithilesh tried contacting him on both his numbers but the phones were found to be switched off.
“We kept trying all day but we were not able to connect. Then we called Suraj's unit at 6 pm to ask whether he has reached. The commanding officer of the unit, Ashok Rai, said that he had not arrived yet. But since 8 am on 1 February was the reporting time, they were waiting for him. They assumed he might have stayed in Chennai," he said.
Suraj Dubey was working at the INL Leading Training School in Coimbatore. He was on his way there when he went missing from Chennai.
“When Suraj did not reach the unit by 8 pm on 1 February, we lodged a complaint on his disappearance at our home station, Chanpur. After that the Palamu SP office took out the call details of Suraj, in which his last known location was Chennai airport on 30 January. After that, there has been no news of his whereabouts.”Neeraj Dubey, Suraj’s Brother
On 5 February at 4 pm, the family received a call from Palghar Maharashtra Police stating that they had found Suraj Dubey in a badly injured condition. “He was not in a position to even speak and was immediately taken to the hospital for treatment. Then Papa went to Palghar. But at 1 am, we received the news of Suraj's death," Neeraj said.
Last Known Location: Chennai Airport
At a hospital in Maharashtra right before he succumbed to burn injuries, Dubey told the local police that he had been kidnapped from outside the Chennai airport on 30 January. He was kept captive in the city outskirts for three days, he had recounted.
He did not say how he reached Palghar from Chennai. Chennai police have examined CCTV footage from two localities in the city to trace the route he had taken before he allegedly got abducted. CCTV footage showed Dubey walking at the Chennai airport for a while. He was then seen walking into the Meenambakkam metro station and then Tirusulam suburban station, which is about two km away.
The CCTV visuals further revealed that an SUV card pulled up near Tirusulam railway station and that Dubey got into the car. The CCTV does not show any sign of forced abduction, Chennai police sources said.
An Unknown Dharmendra Called
Meanwhile, Dubey’s brother Neeraj said that his father had received a call from a person called Dharmendra who said, “Could you please pass the phone to Suraj? My name is Dharmendra and I work with him.” This was shortly after Suraj was dropped off at Ranchi.
“Papa had told him that Suraj has gone to catch the bus to Ranchi. But Papa had his suspicion and asked how he got his number, to which Dharmendra replied that he already had the number saved,” Neeraj said.
“It is important to note that Suraj had over 13 message interactions with Dharmendra Kumar on the same number on 30 January. Now we suspect his role as well and investigation will reveal the truth.”Neeraj Dubey, Suraj’s Brother
Mystery behind the Third SIM Card
While Chennai police have not clarified where in their jurisdiction Dubey was held captive for three days, Palghar Police have formed ten teams, each of which have 10 officers, and have been sent to Chennai and Jharkhand for investigation.
Palghar Superintendent Dattatreya Shinde told The Quint that the statement from Dubey contradicts findings of their investigation.
While it was known that Dubey had two phones on him during the time of abduction, investigation has revealed that he had three SIM cards. While two of his numbers were with his family members, one SIM card was used exclusively for stock market transactions. This number was was available till 1 pm on 1 February, after which it was switched off, investigation has revealed.
Caught in a Web of Debt
Preliminary investigations have revealed that Dubey was investing in the stock market and had made multiple cash transfers to two stock market companies in Bhopal and Mumbai.
A loan of Rs 8.5 lakh was taken against his salary account. The balance in the account was just Rs 302. Apart from this, Dubey also had another bank account from which he had withdrawn Rs 5,000 at an ATM inside the Chennai airport, Maharashtra police said.
The police have traced a debt of Rs 23 lakh associated with both these accounts. It has also been found that Dubey had taken a loan of over Rs 15 lakh from his colleagues and parents in-law.
No Ransom Call, Family Suspects Intention
Neeraj, however, thinks that the abduction could have had other motives as no call was made to the family for ransom.
The Palghar police have registered a case under sections for attempt to murder (307), kidnapping to murder (364) and attempted robbery, of the Indian Penal Code.