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279 people reported missing in Shirdi since 2017: Bombay HC suspects human trafficking

According to the data submitted to the Bombay HC by the Shirdi police, nearly 279 people have been reported missing from Shirdi in Ahmednagar between 2017 and October 27, 2020. Out of this, 67 missing persons still remain untraced.

The rising cases of mysterious disappearances from Shirdi in the last few years has now prompted the Bombay High Court to direct the Maharashtra police to look into the matter, reports Indian Express.

The Bombay High Court, realising that the Maharashtra police’s efforts to trace the missing were unsatisfactory, has asked the Maharashtra director general of police (DGP) to look into the issue and step in to increase efforts. The High Court has also asked the DGP to “more importantly, unravel the mystery of the missing persons vis-a-vis a human trafficking/organ trafficking racket”.

According to the data submitted to the Bombay HC by the Shirdi police, nearly 279 people have been reported missing from Shirdi in Ahmednagar between 2017 and October 27, 2020. Out of this, 67 missing persons still remain untraced.

The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court observed that 20 people had gone missing from the Shirdi in 2017, who are yet to be traced and 20 others reported missing this year prior to the lockdown in March have also remain untraced.

The petition was filed by Indore resident Manoj Soni, who had come to Shirdi to visit the Saibaba temple with his family on August 10, 2017. His 35-year-old wife Deepti went missing after they visited the temple one evening and has not been traced since.

On October 26, a division bench of Justice Ravindra V Ghuge and Justice BU Debadwar had asked the Ahmednagar SP to submit a report to the court listing out their efforts to find Deepti.

Human-trafficking suspected to be the reason behind missing cases

The involvement of human trafficking gangs is being suspected in this case by the High Court.

The data submitted before the court stated that of the 71 people reported missing from Shirdi in 2017, 51 were found and whereabouts of 20 people, including Deepti, are not known. 13 of the 82 reported missing persons in 2018 are yet to be found and 14 of the 88 reported missing in 2019 remain untraced. In 2020, only 18 of the 38 missing were found.

“We find it quite alarming that in 2017, 71 people went missing. In 2018, the numbers rose to 82. In 2019, it further rose to 88 and in 2020, in a matter of two months and three weeks, 38 people went missing,” the court observed.

Responding the court on the human-trafficking angle, the prosecutor said to the court that the Shirdi police had not yet found links to any human trafficking or organ trafficking group for which people are being kidnapped or have started disappearing.

However, the judges said that the police “was rudely awakened from its deep slumber” after the court’s order on October 26. “Humans may lie but documents would not lie. We are not satisfied by the minimal steps taken by the Shirdi police on the special unit formed for investigation as per the directions of this Court vide order dated November 22, 2019,” the court said.

In its observation, the court added, “We are convinced that the Shirdi police station has hardly taken any efforts and which indicates that the head of the Ahmednagar police department may have failed in his duties,”.

The Bombay High Court bench also said that it would appreciate a response to the order from the DGP at the next hearing on November 24.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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