Hostage horror in Farrukhabad: He gave us food, chocolates, some of us slept, say children

KATHARIYA VILLAGE, FARRUKHABAD: When 25 UP children entered Subhash Batham's house on Thursday night, apart from the missing confetti, there was little evidence that this was not, in fact, a birthday party. They were received by Batham's wife in a 10 x 8 basement where several packages of snacks, cookies, chocolates and milk were stored.

The cold mud floor was covered with mats for the children to sit. In the next 10 hours the crisis developed, Batham and his wife reportedly took turns watching the children, and the latter even served them roti and sabzi.

For these children in Kathariya village, most of whom were between one and 15 years old, a birthday invitation was as rare as it was attractive. Many come from poor homes, with their parents struggling to make ends meet. Then, when word spread on Thursday afternoon that a party would be held, they were eager to join the celebrations. His parents also felt there was little reason to worry.

Batham had a checkered past, had spent 12 years in prison for killing his uncle, but had not shown aggressive behavior towards anyone in the village and, as a villager said, it had been years since that incident in 2001. In a matter of hours, when the news came that Batham was armed and demanded to free the children, the parents began to gather in front of the house, fearing the worst. Inside, the children were anxious but well fed.

A day later, many of the children TOI talked to said they were still surprised by the turn of events but happy to be back home. The younger ones, however, showed little understanding that they had been at the center of a furious drama that had everyone in suspense. But most seemed to agree on one thing: their kidnapper was not willing to harm them. I don't think he (Batham) wanted to hurt us. He warned us to keep quiet and said there would be consequences if we didn't, but he didn't hurt anyone, said Anjali Kumari, the eldest of those taken hostage. Batham had a gun and a rifle with him, the children said, but he never aimed them.

On Friday, when TOI visited the place, candy wrappers were scattered throughout the basement. Instead of a staircase, a staircase paved the way to the dreary windowless space, with an LED bulb as the only source of light. A metal door separated the basement from the rest of the house. It was this door that Anjali locked after the children had been trapped in the room for hours and their patience began to run out. This cut off Batham's access to children and minimized their chances of getting caught in a crossfire. After I closed the door, Subash's uncle and his wife knocked on the door several times, but I didn't open it. Two hours later, we were rescued by the police, ”Anjali said.

Although initially they were scared, the children said they felt better once the food was served. Arun Kumar, 10, said the couple served them all food and water. “They gave us cookies, chocolate, milk, water and some ate roti and sabzi. But when we wanted to urinate, they told us to go to a corner and get better, ”said Soni Kumari, 12, who was confined along with two of his brothers. As there was not much to do, some of the children went to sleep.

When a baby did not stop crying, Batham decided to leave to release her. That was when Anjali closed the door from the inside. However, the children did not have to wait long. A couple of hours later, the police went to the building and shot Batham.

Residents of the quiet village said they were still agreeing with the incident that had taken them to the spotlight. But things could have been different, said Babli Devi, whose house is next to Batham's. “Three of my children were also there. And I will always remember this traumatic night, but would I have wanted them dead for that? I do not think so. Maybe, the police could have caught Batham, instead of killing him.

A police officer said: “We negotiated with Batham for hours and entered the building to arrest him, but he brandished a gun. So we had to shoot.