I know the person who kidnapped my child. I dragged her to the police station, but she was released the next day,” said three-year-old Chandru’s father, Armogam Harijan (45).
Chandru was last seen by a local shopkeeper on October 27, 2008, walking with the suspect, a woman known for her links to Mumbai’s beggar gangs.
In a dingy lane inside Malwani, a working class settlement in Malad (west), there is a cluster of hutments where Chandru’s family lives. His mother Khanmma (38), sitting with his twin sister Sandhya and elder brother Santosh (6), burst into tears the moment his name was mentioned.
“Chandru, with his other siblings, was playing outside the house. He ran back to ask his father for a rupee to buy a gola (ice-lolly) from a nearby shop. He went there and never returned,” she said.
“When we started searching for him, a local shopkeeper told us that he had seen Chandru with a woman who sometimes played with him. He was seen walking with her,” recalls Khanmma.
Next day, Armogam and his neighbours found the woman in Kandivali and took her to Malwani police station. He said, “The woman has a notorious reputation of kidnapping children and selling them to beggar gangs,” Armogam said.
He said, “We found 50 sets of clothes of small children in her bag and Rs 5,000 in her purse. She is not married and stays alone. The police arrested the woman and released her on bail the next day.
“When we asked why they had let her go, they drove us away, saying the woman was mad and did not kidnap Chandru,” Armogam said.
He said the woman had not been seen in the neighbourhood since then.A daily wage labourer, he has so far spent Rs 60,000 in search of his child.
Jaywant Hergude, senior inspector at Malwani police station, said, “We arrested the woman. But after interrogating her, we found she was innocent. We have done our best to trace Chandru, but we could not trace him,” he said.