Missing children’s guiding light, this policeman helps reunite them with their families
He works with simple clues: A butcher’s shop, bald shopkeeper, a pond and even a guava tree, to track down missing persons, most of them children, and reunite them with their families. Not less than an angel in khaki, assistant sub-inspector Rajesh Kumar from Panchkula’s Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) has helped send 573 missing persons back home in the last five years.
Over half of the cases were solved by Kumar alone while his team pitched in for the rest.
Joining AHTU in 2015, Kumar recalls one of his first cases, a five-year-old girl named Kaveri, who wore a gold nose pin. As she didn’t know any language except Bangla, he had to take her to the Chandimandir Command Hospital to get help from an acquaintance to translate what she had written. It was the name of her school, and within 15 days Kaveri was back home.
All details in a diary
His diary comes in handy in which every minute detail is noted down neatly. “It’s not easy to get cues from children, who are often scared. I don’t introduce myself as a policeman and try to be friendly to build a rapport with them,” says Kumar.
From their dialect, to what they eat, he has to factor in everything in his investigations.
Giving credit to Kumar’s entire unit for tracking missing persons, additional director general of police, Haryana, Navdeep Virk, calls Kumar “the prime motivator.”
He has gone the extra mile. “In five years, he has taken the initiative to solve 294 cases wherein children from child care institutions were reunited with parents,” Virk adds.
In 2017, Kumar managed to contact 16-year-old Pooja at the Tuti Kundi Children’s Home in Shimla. She had left home 11 years earlier and didn’t remember a thing, except for a “dhaage ka dher (pile of threads)” and that her father’s name was Somdat Sharma .
“I could think of two places with textile factories – Ludhiana and Panipat. With no success in Ludhiana, I left for Panipat and looked through over 250 FIRs of 2007. One listed Pooja, daughter of Somdat Sharma from Sudana village as missing,” says Kumar.
She was reunited with her family on July 23, 2018.
Tracing the family of Kajal, another girl at the Shimla home, Kumar found she had been sent from Mumbai five years ago. “Her name too was Pooja who had mentioned Chandpur in 2007, when she had been found.”
After an intensive search (there are 18 cities named Chandpur in India) he finally traced Pooja’s family to Chandpur in UP. “She had run away from home because she had lost the key to the house and was afraid of being beaten up,” he says.
She was back with her family after 11 years on August 1, 2018.
This year in January, an Aadhaar card came in handy to trace the Muzaffarful (UP) based family of a 10-year-old hearing and speech impaired boy.
Purpose in life
His work, Kumar says, has given him a purpose in life. “Lost children find their families, what more can I ask for?”
He has been unstoppable, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, solving 63 cases this year.
One of them involved six-year-old Suraj, who said he was from Bindki in Uttar Pradesh when he was found, but the sarpanch there could not identify him. After asking the reserved child more questions, another clue, of a pond near his home, was revealed and the sarpanch contacted again and the home located. The boy who was missing from home since January 5, went home on August 5.
It also took Kumar just a few days to help a missing child from Delhi return home with just two references to a “murge ki dukaan (chicken shop)” and “ganjey (bald) uncle.”
On Sunday, he was able to connect two sisters from Bal Sadan in Panchkula with their father after six years.
“At times my wife complains that I remain too busy, but she has never stopped me from working. When I ask my four-year-old daughter about what she would say if she was lost, she says, ‘my father reunites children with their parents’,” laughs Kumar.