Bhopal: With no money in her pocket, a tattered bag on shoulder with a few pairs of clothes in it, an angry Sandhya (name changed) left home with her two-year-old son from Chhindawara and went to Hridaynagar in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh after a rift with her mother-in-law in October 2019.
Seeing a helpless woman at a bus stop alone, Bablu alias Ram Bharose lured her and took her to his home. He separated the kid from the mother and raped her. With the help from a local priest, Ravindra Dubey, Ram Bharose sold her in Rajhasthan’s Bhilwada the following day for Rs 1.70 lakh.
As the days went by and she did not return home, her family lodged a missing complaint at the Chand Police station in Chhindwara district but the investigation did not lead anywhere.
At the hands of Dinesh Toshniwal in Bhilwada, Sandhya was once again sold for Rs 3 lakh to Happuram Gurjar, a resident of Pali district. According to the police, Gurjar tortured and raped her for months before she escaped and approached an One Stop Centre, meant to assist women affected by violence, in Bhilwada.
Almost 15 months later, in January 2021, when the Madhya Pradesh police embarked on ‘Operation Muskan’ initiated by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to trace the missing or lost girls in the state, the dust over Sandhya’s missing complaint was finally cleared and the investigation was restarted.
Teams were formed to find her and the police had their first breakthrough when her photograph matched with a woman at the One Stop Centre in Bhilwada. Sandhya was brought back but the police were still clueless about her missing son.
The two-year-old kid was abandoned on the outskirts of the city by Ram Bharose once he had sold Sandhya. The toddler wailing and out of breath left on the streets was luckily spotted by Chhindwara police spotted which although failed to find the family but sent the boy to government-run shelter home in the city.
The police finally found at the government run shelter home in Chhindwada and handed him over to Sandhya.
Just like Sandhya, as many as 3,331 women or minors were either rescued, found or their missing case was resolved by the MP police in the months of January and February through operation Muskan. Around as many women and minors were rescued by the police last year under similar operations, said Richa Shrivastava, ADG, Crime Against Women, MP Police.
Shrivastava said that in majority of the resolved missing cases, the parents did not inform the police when the children returned, but police count them as live cases and those pile up at the police stations. “Hundreds of such cases of similar nature were resolved through this operation,” ADG Shrivastava added.
The police rescued 2,444 women in January and 885 in February, while 3,122 missing cases are still pending, according to the data available with the police. Of them, nearly 80% were either found or rescued in the state while the remaining 20% were found in 22 different state.
Since CM Chouhan himself initiated ‘Operation Muskan’ with a great zeal, the coordination with other states and senior officials went swiftly in the effort to find the missing women, said a senior official of the MP Police.
Total 434 women/minors were rescued by MP Police from other states in January, including five cases of trafficking; 83 women were rescued from Gujarat, 82 from Maharashtra, 71 from Uttar Pradesh, and 44 from Rajasthan. Besides these, the police have also rescued girls from Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, and West Bengal.
“We have resolved 56 cases a day under operation Muskan in the last two months and the credit goes to the police officials and constables who tirelessly worked day and night and cracked even the most challenging cases,” said Deepika Suri, who is in charge of the Operation Muskan and IG, Crime Against Women of MP Police.
“During the operation, we came across many mysterious and challenging cases such as in Sehore. The Sehore police cracked a decade-old mysterious case of a 17-year-old missing girl who was killed by her parents and buried in the nearest graveyard. Police not only recovered the skeleton but also arrested the parents,” she said.
Study on Pattern of Missing Girls
The Madhya Pradesh police have roped in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis to find out the pattern and objectives of such crimes and behaviour of policemen in dealing with the cases of kidnapping and missing girls who were later rescued. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on March 10 in presence of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in this regard.
The study will broadly focus on the economical and social background of the rescued women/minors. It will look at answering questions such as what forced the women/minors to run, reasons behind such kidnappings and to ascertain whether it is a lone case or if there is an organised syndicate behind the missing cases.
“The study will analyse the root cause of crimes taking place against women and thereby, find what measures could be taken. It will also look at what amendments could be made to the law or policy to curb those cases and how the police behaviour can be improved while dealing with such cases,” said Richa Mishra, Senior Advisor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis. The study is expected to be completed in four months.