In a joint operation by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Delhi police and a Delhi-based non-government organisation rescued a minor Dalit girl from West Bengal in Delhi, who was kidnapped by a youth on the pretext of marriage.
The minor girl was brought to New Delhi in March by the accused named Mohammad Salauddin to sell her to a trafficker in Rajasthan. However, he got stuck in Delhi due to the nationwide lockdown announced amidst coronavirus lockdown, reports Swarajya.
The investigative report by journalist Swati Goel Sharma revealed that the NCPCR team laid a trap for the kidnapper by posing as citizen volunteers distributing free ration to rescue the minor girl. The victim minor after being rescued was taken to a women’s shelter and will be taken to her parents after the lockdown ends. The accused, Mohammad Salauddin, was arrested but he was granted bail by court.
Accused Mohammad Salauddin flees with minor girl
Kamal Mondal (first name changed), who is the father of the victim, lives in a village in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Speaking to the reporter, Mondal said that on the early morning of 29 February, the family found the girl was missing. The father said that they looked around, but did not find her. Later in the day, they reached out to her friends and classmates.
A Muslim youth, Mohammad Salauddin, emerged as an accused in the case. The father said he was shocked to know that his daughter was seeing someone.
“She had just appeared for her Class 10 exams. I used to pick her up from school every day. Even for her tuition classes, I would drop her and pick her up. I fail to understand where she even met him, he told this correspondent.
Mondal, who belongs to the Poundra community, which is a scheduled caste, said that the village has Muslims in the majority and Hindu families usually accompany their girls outside homes.
The 16-year-old minor girl is one of the two daughters of Mondal, The other daughter is aged 11.
On his complaint, a first information report was registered at Barauipur police station on 2 March. Kamal said as he searched for the girl’s documents to produce her age proof, he found that her Class 10 admit card, Aadhaar card, birth certificate and her bank passbook were missing.
The most shocking was that the police did not mention Salauddin’s name in the FIR, Kamal Mondal said. He added that the police only invoked IPC 363 (kidnapping).
Mohammad Salauddin calls victim’s father
Mondal said that he received a call from Salauddin a week after he had registered a complaint. The father said he had never spoken to him before. Reportedly, Mondal shared an audio recording of the conversation with this correspondent.
According to Mondal, he urged the Salauddin to return back to the village along with his daughter. To which, Salauddin asked Mondal to withdraw the complaint filed against him.
The accused said that the villagers including police are advising him to return to the village immediately. Later in the conversation, Salauddin revealed that all he wanted to know was the case number so his lawyer could file for bail. Mondal refused to give it.
“This relationship is unacceptable to me as the man is Muslim. Moreover, when I inquired about him, I was told he is heavily into weed and has no job. I can’t ruin my daughter’s life,” Mondal told to the reporter.
“If he really loved my daughter, he should have come to me first. She is just a child. His intentions are not good,” he said.
Mondal passed on the phone number to the police, but it was found constantly switched off.
Even after weeks, Mondal helplessly waited for the police to bring his daughter back. However, in the first week of April, Mondal received a call from his daughter in one afternoon.
“All she said was that she was trapped and wanted to come back home. She said she was in Delhi, but did not know her location,” Mondal said. He gave the phone number to the local police.
Delhi police, NCPCR nabs the culprit in a joint operation
As police began to trace the victim, the nationwide lockdown had come into effect, and inter-state travel was prohibited.
The West Bengal police soon passed the information to an NGO in Delhi, Mission Mukti Foundation. The NGO took the case to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Soon, the commission directed the Delhi police to begin the investigation.
The Delhi police traced the number to Khajuri Khas area in the North-East part of the national capital. Incidentally, Khajuri Khas is one of the areas in northeast Delhi hit by communal violence that broke out between 23 and 25 February. It was the same locality where murdered Intelligence Bureau employee Ankit Sharma also resided.
Virendra Kumar Singh, director of the NGO, speaking to Swarajya, said that the police gave him two phone numbers belonging to families living in the colony where the girl had been kept. The police said to him that she was brought to Delhi on 21 March, a day before ‘Janta curfew’.
Singh then dialled the two numbers to state that his NGO would carry out a food distribution drive in the area within two days and they must come at a given spot to collect it.
One of the men, Mohammad Aqib (name changed), however, said to Virendra Singh that the colony had Gujjar-owned houses that have been rented to Muslims, and no ration distribution drive is being carried out in the area.
On 21 April, a team comprising NCPCR officials, cops from Khajuri Khas police station and a few volunteers of the NGO reached the spot.
When the two families reached the spot, the team questioned them about the girl being kidnapped in their colony.
“For a long time, they kept denying any knowledge of it. Eventually, they agreed to speak on the condition that their name would feature nowhere in the police case,” an NCPCR official said.
A woman took the team inside the lane and pointed at the house. The joint team raided the house and detained both the girl and Salauddin.
Accused gets bail, thanks to police negligence
Virendra Singh revealed that the girl in the presence of cops and NCPCR officials said that Salauddin was planning to sell her to someone in Rajasthan.
“She said it in front of all officials. If it weren’t for lockdown, she would have been trafficked to Rajasthan by March end,” Singh said.
Despite the seriousness of the crime, the accused of the crime was successful in getting bail after Delhi police failed to present the FIR copy, which was registered in West Bengal, before the court.
“The accused got a prompt bail. The FIR itself had weak charges. The police should have invoked POCSO and added section 370 at the time of filing it,” Priyank Kanoongo, chairman of the child commission said.
Kanoongo said that it is this inter-state confusion that is failing to put a stop at trafficking, especially that of minor girls.
“Unless trafficking is handled by a central agency, such as the CBI, we cannot tackle it,” he said.
Family awaits their daughter
Speaking to Swarajya, Kamal Mondal said that he has managed to talk to his daughter a couple of times since her rescue. As he awaits her, he said that the girl’s life has been ruined.
He said that as the entire village knows about the case, his daughter and family has no reputation left. We can no longer go out with our heads high, said Mondal.