When Salam Bidyarani was picked up from her home on the night of August 14, she was unwell and hardly realised that the authorities planned to exchange her for her parents.
Only 11, Bidyarani was scared at the sight of armed men surrounding their house. She had no idea whether her parents were involved in militancy.
A combined force of the Manipur Police commandos and jawans of 12 Maratha Light Infantry took Bidyarani and her two grandmothers away before letting the neighbours know that they would be returned once her parents surrendered.
She was allowed to return on Tuesday (August 18) after spending five days in the barracks under police guard. She is still unwell and at a city hospital, fighting breathlessness.
“I’m very afraid. Such things should not happen to anyone. All I want is to see my parents and my two brothers,” she said.
The state police, however, claimed that while they had gone to arrest Bidyarani’s parents Salam Dewan and Memocha, they found that the parents had absconded, leaving the sick child behind.
As there was no one to attend to the child, the police claimed they took her away out of sympathy — with her grandmothers, Ningol, 60, and Ashangbi, 60 — to a clinic for treatment.
But women in the neighbourhood said on condition of anonymity that the police had told them in clear terms that the child would be released once the parents surrendered.
It was only on August 18 evening after the locals submitted a memorandum to Governor Gurbachan Jagat and the intervention of rights activists that Bidyarani and her grandmothers were allowed to go home.
The police, however, said even after Bidyarani’s condition improved, none of her family turned up to take her home.
“Hence, she and her grandmothers were allowed to stay at the Mayang Imphal police station with a lady constable standing guard over them till August 18,” Senior Superintendent of Police P.L. Kailun said in a statement.
The police, meanwhile, arrested Bidyarani’s parents on charges of providing shelter to militants. They even displayed the arms and ammunition said to be recovered from them on Wednesday.
But the child welfare committees of Imphal West and Thoubal districts have sent a report to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, alleging that the police were “bargaining the daughter in exchange for her parents”.