The search for four missing children may have ended with the chance discovery of their bodies in an abandoned rice mill here, but nothing is known about the nine other children in the age group of seven to 13 who went missing in the last 19 months in Muktsar.
According to sources, the four children, whose decomposed bodies were recovered, were among eight children who went missing in the last five months. Most of these children are from poor families living near the city. They left for school or the playground and never returned.
Their parents have alleged that the police did not “accord priority” to their complaints, a charge senior police officials have refuted. SSP G Nageshwar Rao said investigating officials had been briefing him regularly on the missing children since August 2006, when he had taken charge. “Given the work pressure and manpower crunch, it is nearly impossible for us to dedicate an officer to each case. We try to cooperate with the complainants, nevertheless,” he said.
IG B.K. Bhavara had on Tuesday said that the policemen were performing their duties sincerely and had even taken out advertisements in newspapers and on cable TV. He also ruled out any link between the Muktsar and Nithari killings.
Discreet inquiries by HT revealed that the first reported case in 2006 was that of Bubbly, 13, who disappeared from outside her house. Narian Singh, 11, and Sarita, 7, went missing after leaving for school in August and September, respectively. It is feared that the number of missing children in the district could be more, as many of the cases are not reported to the police. “It is difficult to determine the exact number of cases as villagers seldom report them and prefer to search on their own,” one policeman told HT.
The post-mortem of the four bodies was conducted at the Faridkot Medical College and Hospital but doctors refused to divulge any details.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered a high-level probe into the recovery of the bodies even as the Congress gave a clean chit to former MP Jagmeet Brar, in whose mill the bodies were found.
With inputs from HTC, Delhi