A report titled ‘Missing Children in Delhi’, stated that 26,761 children have gone missing in Delhi in the last five years. Of these, only 9,727 could be traced. Here, narrating their ordeal, are parents who have still not found their children
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.” — APJ Abdul Kalam
The number of children that go missing in Delhi everyday has been scarily consistent. Last week, the count of missing children for every 24 hours was at 17 children, give or take a few. The following week, on any given day, the numbers didn’t waver much.
These children go missing for a variety of reasons — abduction (by family members or non-family members), trafficking, unfavourable societal environments, and so on and so forth. This begs the question — how much longer are children going to remain a liability in the capital?
Patriot spoke to the parents of three such kids who went missing and are yet to be traced.
Anshika, a 3-year-old, disappeared from her residence in Vijay Vihar at 10:30 in the morning. As was her habit, she was spending time in the by-lanes outside her house, while her mother Aarthi Devi and her grandparents were inside the residence. Her father, who works at a carton factory in Vijay Vihar, was at work. When her mother went to call her back home, at 11 am, she was not there.
According to her father, Sumit Kumar, Anshika used to roam around on the streets in the morning, spending time with their neighbours or their children. Until one day, she disappeared in the middle of a seemingly routine ritual.
After Anshika’s parents asked around the neighbourhood and no one was able to provide any headway, they went to Rohini Sector 5 police station in the evening and the case was taken up by Investigating Officer J Bhagwan.
The couple have another daughter, who is only a few months old, and mostly they are occupied with taking care of her. Dealing with a missing daughter, proved quite a task for them. Despite this, they knew that they could not give up the search. They created a Facebook page where they put out posts and pictures of their daughter, asking anyone who could have possibly seen her to contact them. In addition to this, they printed 1,000 posters with Anshika’s picture and plastered them in and around the locality.
“It’s been a month but the police have not been able to uncover anything about our daughter yet. We cannot afford to lose hope, but even we don’t know where else we can look for her now,” Sumit adds.
Friends under suspicion
Khushi’s mother, Mala Devi, could not control her tears, as she recalled how her daughter was abducted. She names four individuals who she suspects were involved in the disappearance of her daughter. Khushi, 13 years old, was returning home from tuition when she was pulled aside by Guddi, a girl from the same neighbourhood in Nangloi. Guddi was friends with Noushad, Ashish and Rahul (a distant cousin of Khushi’s), and as Mala Devi claims, Ashish had his eyes set on Khushi for quite a while.
According to the neighbours who saw Guddi pulling Khushi aside that evening, Khushi was made to change her clothes and was being taken away by Guddi. When they called out to the two girls, they ran away. This was when they informed Khushi’s mother about their suspicions.
Mala Devi works as housekeeping staff at Sir Gangaram Hospital and is the only earning member of the family. Her husband is an alcoholic and has been least helpful in this case. “I feel helpless that I can’t find my daughter. What else am I going to do?” Devi adds as she tries to hold back her tears.
On the day that Khushi disappeared, her older brother (18 years old) called Guddi to ask where they were, to which Guddi responded that she had run away with Khushi and the two were together. She even told him where they were. But when Khushi’s brother arrived, Khushi was not there — and since then Noushad, Asish, Rahul and Guddi have been tight-lipped about the whole incident. There has been further speculation about Guddi, since as the neighbours claim, her mother Sushila had once allegedly been involved in the trafficking of a young girl from the same neighbourhood.
Mala Devi’s biggest complaint is “When the police know the names of the four kids who possible abducted my daughter, why are they not investigating further? We have been to the police station multiple times, and they never have any sort of update. Does this mean I will never see Khushi again?”
The grieving mother has spent approximately Rs 3 lakh on court proceedings and cannot see a silver lining at this point. She is afraid that her daughter has been kidnapped for trafficking, and always knew that the four kids she has her doubts about were not a good influence. “She is my only daughter, and I want her back. But the lack of headway and apparent casual attitude taken by the police is truly disconcerting,” Devi adds.
A father waits for his son
Ravi Kumar, an 8-year-old, has been missing for over a year now. He went missing in January 2017 and there hasn’t been any sign of him since then.
His father Mukesh, has registered a missing persons case with the Shalimar Bagh police station, but they have failed to bring him any updates.
Mukesh Tanti owns a thhela in the Shalimar Bagh mandi and is the father of three sons. One is 17 and the other is four years old. He says. “I’m left now with only two of my sons”. “It was the day that Arvind Kejriwal was elected and there was some kind of celebration happening in the neighbourhood. Ravi went there but never came back. I imagine that he either ran away of his own accord or was kidnapped,” says Tanti.
A noticeable trend in all of these cases is that the police have been of little to no help in all of these incidents, including that of Ravi’s. His father however, is oddly optimistic. “In Panipat, there was a boy who got lost and was found six years later,” he explains. He holds on to that hope, believing that even if he doesn’t get his son back immediately, he might see him in a few years’ time.
“Ravi is silly,” he says ruefully. “Ravi thoda laalchi hai,” (Ravi is a little greedy) he explains, “Mera bada beta hota toh yeh kabhi na hota!” (If this were my elder son, this would not have happened). He goes on to say that in case someone offered Ravi something and abducted him, it is entirely possible that Ravi fell for the ploy. His elder son is wiser and would not have got carried away.
Mukesh Tanti has checked orphanages, homes and ashrams. He has travelled to Meerut and Amritsar to check ashrams there. But unfortunately, none of them had records of any boys matching Ravi’s description. Tanti is currently a combination of resigned, yet oddly hopeful. He hasn’t seen his son in nearly two years and has scaled long distances in his search to no avail, but still holds onto the hope that just like the boy in Panipat, Ravi too will show up one day and be reunited with their family.
Surveys suggest that the phenomenon of missing children is on the decline. Organisations like Childline India, Child Rights and You and Nav Srishti have done a lot of research and groundwork to rehabilitate rescued children, as well as to sensitise the at-risk communities about the dangers of the same. Nav Srishti was also responsible for launching a campaign, wherein the inhabitants of urban slums were educated and sensitised about the issue of children going missing.
Even though the steps taken by these organisations are definitely pushing our societies in the right direction, but quite evidently Delhi is still far from being clear of this plight.