The Inside Story
The accused was contesting civic body elections, and was identified from photographs in his campaign posters.

Ten years after a Thane teenager's body was found dumped in Bhiwandi, the Thane Crime Branch last Thursday arrested a 50-year-old man from Basti town in Uttar Pradesh. The accused, Abdul Qadir Chaudhary, was contesting the local municipal body elections, and was identified by a police informer from his photographs on the campaign posters put up by his supporters.

The Thane Crime Branch said that Chaudhary had confessed that the victim, Pramod Gautam, who worked as a truck cleaner, was grievously injured by a driver, Jalaluddin Khan, after a petty argument escalated.

"Pramod was hit on the head with an iron rod by Khan after two argued over who should replace a punctured tyre. Pramod and Khan worked for Chaudhary, who ran a small-time transport business in Thane. Instead of rushing the victim to hospital, Chaudhary, with the help of Khan and another driver, Mohammad Aziz, dumped him at a secluded spot in Bhiwandi, where he bled to death," a Crime Branch officer said.

Ironically, the Narpoli police, which found the body on January 8, 2005, couldn't even identify the victim. They classified the body as 'unidentified', and cremated it.

Meanwhile, officers at the Wagle Estate Police Station in Thane, where the victim's family had filed a complaint saying their boy had been kidnapped, questioned Chaudhary, and detained Khan and Aziz. The Wagle Estate cops had no idea that Pramod was dead, and didn't press any charges against Chaudhary, Khan, and Aziz.

A few weeks after the incident, Chaudhary shut his business in Thane, and returned to his hometown Basti, while Khan and Aziz, who were not arrested for the lack of evidence, disappeared. The police have now launched a hunt for the two.

The victim's brother, Arjun Gautam, said that Pramod was 16 when he left home in 2005, after a fight with his family. "We resided in Hajuri Dargah Road locality in Thane (W), and came to know that Pramod was working at a transport company at the Wagle Estate. When we went to meet him, we were told that he had already left the job. We suspected foul play and filed a complaint at the Wagle Estate Police Station," Arjun said.

The breakthrough the police were looking for only arrived a couple of weeks ago, when they were told that several posters with photographs of the man they were looking for had come up all over Basti town.

"We were contacted by an informer, who said that a man wanted in a case filed at the Wagle Estate Police Station was contesting municipal elections in Basti. After making sure that he was indeed the person we were looking for, a Crime Branch team went to Basti," Inspector Madan Ballal from Thane Crime Branch said. "Chaudhary has been booked for murder, while the hunt is on for his accomplices," Ballal said.

The victim's family is bitter about the fact that it took the police 10 years to find one of the accused. "All these years, we thought our boy was missing. The culprits would have been arrested a long time ago had the Wagle Estate police not been lethargic," the victim's brother, Arjun, said.

DCP Parag Manera from the Thane Crime Branch said that the police will not check the postmortem report, and will add additional charges if need be.

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