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When CBI came looking for me
At one point of time, I started sitting in our manufacturing complex. It was not the best of times for us in the Works, for the two warring union factions wanted us to recognize them, to the exclusion of the other. In an earlier situation three workers had been murdered. We earned the displeasure of both, for we were talking to both the sides, to work out some mutually acceptable solution. It was of no avail.
Sit-down strikes and sabotage of production machines were becoming routine. Late in the evening when I would leave for home, I could see two motorcyclists shadowing my car. The driver (shall we call him Raju!) would dodge them by taking unexpected turns.

No two days we took the same route. When talks failed we decided to have a partial lockout of 250 troublesome workers. This had to be done in total secrecy. Any news of individual notices being typed out would spread and our efforts would be thwarted. For one of our very major customer, supplies were being delayed and thus delaying the commissioning of their plant. He was going abroad and he offered his office and staff for me to work out from there in total secrecy.

Notices were typed in the client’s office and mailed by registered post. This took the recipients by total surprise. My movements and whereabouts were not known to anyone, as I always gave them vague information about where I was going. Only my wife would know.

It was in this charged situation that driver Raju told me, when dropping me home at night, "Saheb, yahan koi murder ya kidnapping hone wali hai." I dismissed the thought. Next night again he repeated his words, this time with a certain graveness. 'Why do you say so?' I asked.

He described, that in the lane opposite our gate, a Fiat with four men was waiting every night. With the front door open, he could see a gun in the man's hand. 'I understand the ways of the underworld', he said. Were they after me? 'Our unions are not that bad', I consoled myself, though with some trepidation.

The top brass of a vital national agency stayed in the building opposite us. I thought they must be Pak agents, who were after one of them. Though it was very late at night, I rang up the chief, whom I knew well. I suggested that he had better inform his security people to watch out. That done, I forgot all about it.

Six days in the week I would go to the factory complex. On Mondays when factories were closed, I was generally in HO. I was sitting in my room, when the HO receptionist informed me that I had a visitor. I asked her to find out his and company's name. ‘He's Mr. Sharma from the CBI', was the reply. Earth trembled under my feet. Instead of calling him up, I rushed down to meet him in the lobby and escorted him up with all the courtesy at my command. I tried to look unruffled.

For the life of me, I just could not imagine what he could have had to do with me. Seated in our conference room and the formality of 'tea or coffee' over, I braced for the business on hand. His very first words stumped me, 'How do you know that I am from CBI? 'What's this now?' I wondered, even more scared. He opened his briefcase and showed me his CBI ID card. Never talk to anyone, without being satisfied about their identity, he admonished.

‘I have been asked by the Home Ministry to contact you about some clue you had about a criminal activity in your vicinity. It transpired that my friend had that very night informed the Ministry in Delhi about the tip, who in turn wanted CBI to meet me and driver Raju. "You were right on track, but 24 hours too late. Two people have been kidnapped from your neighbourhood. I have to meet the person who gave you the information. At that very moment Raju was at home and I told my wife to keep him there. The CBI gentleman went home to debrief Raju.

A factory of company X, situated off the road to Pune had had labour strife five years earlier. Two of its loyal workers were found murdered in its rail shunting yard. After trials, five union rowdies were sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment. After their release, they decided to take their revenge on the General Manager, Krishnan whom they wrongly thought was behind their imprisonment. He stayed in building next to ours. We were good family friends and he was cousin of one of our colleagues.

That fateful early morning, he had as usual plunged himself in the day's newspaper, while his driver drove him to the distant factory. Their car was intercepted near Malabar Hill post office. At gunpoint they were asked to keep their heads ducked till they were taken to a deserted warehouse and tortured. The driver was later bound to a pillar and my friend at gunpoint was forced to call up his office from the PCO for a ransom of Rs. 40 lakhs.

He had no option, but to tell a colleague in their headquarters in South Bombay, that he needed the cash straight away to finalize a sudden deal, which was vital for the company. People thought that Krishnan had gone bonkers to talk like that. Later, while speaking at gunpoint, he did manage to subtly convey that his life was in danger.

A rendezvous with money was fixed at Shamiana, the Taj coffee shop. Two crooks accompanied Krishnan to Taj, while two colleagues came bringing a briefcase, apparently with money. When the crooks realized that a trap had been laid out for them, they managed at hidden gun point to walk Krishnan back to the waiting car, which was already revved up for whizzing away to the deserted warehouse. There he was tortured further, till he agreed to call his office.

At the same venue, this time real cash was brought and Krishnan was thrown out to freedom, in front of Gateway of India, from a running car. This cycle of torture and phone calls had gone on for three days. The Chairman of his company (a highly respected name) had been supervising the operations. His family had already been provided round the clock vigil by police.

Now, Krishnan, bruised and terribly shaken was brought home. Soon the company moved them incognito to a distant posting in India and then again to another city, till they moved quietly to the South on his retirement.

The press had been requested not to report about the kidnapping, etc. till Krishnan and the driver had been rescued and he and his family had been safely taken to another distant city. Later the press reported in detail about this spine chilling episode. Our driver Raju’s description of the car, etc. helped in tracking the goons, who were given sterner sentences and sent to jail again.

(Note: This happened 25 years ago. Names of people and companies have been changed or not indicated)

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