Meghalaya’s Sillian A Sangma did not get the job he was promised in Chennai in 2012. He got lost instead.
Now, four years after begging on the streets of Kolkata and much of his past erased from his mind, 25-year-old Sillian is set to be reunited with his family in Garo Hills region.
An autorickshaw driver in Kolkata, who did not want to be named for “doing something expected from all human beings”, helped Sillian get in touch with his family a few days ago. The driver was attracted to an alphanumerical scribble on a piece of paper that Sillian had slung from his neck while begging in Kolkata’s Sector 5 of Salt Lake.
“Most of us (three-wheeler operators) were used to him and helped him with food whenever we could. One day, I noticed the haphazardly written letters and numbers on his neck and asked him where he was from. Fortunately, he could remember the phone number of one of his relatives,” the auto driver said.
A Garo-speaking middleman had taken Sillian, then 21, and two others from Assam to Chennai in 2012, promising them jobs. Soon, they realised they had been conned into travelling far from home and boarded a train to Kolkata.
On December 12 that year, when the train was approaching Kolkata, Sillian was drugged and his belongings, including an identity card, were stolen. He landed up in Kolkata, and unable to speak English, Hindi or Bengali – the local language – he could not communicate with anyone. He began begging and gradually lost his mental balance.
After Sillian failed to return home, his parents filed a missing report at Rongram outpost on the outskirts of Tura on December 28, 2012. An attempt was made to locate him, but he remained untraceable.
Sillian’s parents in Meghalaya’s Rongram village – also called Rongchigre – were relieved that he was alive, but they did not know how to get him back. They sought the help of Shoshon A Sangma, a Tura-based social activist.
Shoshon and his fellow activists took to social networking sites to help the family. Supratim Sinha, a resident of Tura studying in a Salt Lake institute, traced Sillian and posted his photo, helping his family back home confirm his identity.
Cornelius Gomes, an anti-human trafficking activist in West Bengal, met Sillian after reading about him. But the Garo tribal man refused to tell his name.
“When I spoke to him he seemed offended. It was as if he felt I was trying to mess up his life. Even the Kolkata Police’s assistance did not help. I sensed he was not in the best of mental health,” Gomes said.
Gomes advised the Meghalaya-based activists to send Sillian’s family members to take him back home.
On Tuesday, four people - including two members of Sillian’s family - drove down to Guwahati from where they flew to Kolkata. Members of the clan Sillian belongs to pooled money for the travel. Gomes met the team the following day and together they met Sillian.
“Sillian denied being a Garo but spoke in the Garo language. We had lunch with him and convinced him to return home. He has had a torrid time over the past few years and we want him to be reunited with his family as quickly as possible,” Soshon said from Kolkata.
Sillian was taken to Meghalaya House in Kolkata after the Bidhan Nagar Police in Kolkata helped complete the formalities for his homecoming. He will be brought to his village within a couple of days.
“We are really thankful to all who helped Sillian get back with us. There is no bigger joy for us,” his mother, Nedila A Sangma, said.