Boy who went missing from Delhi found in Gurugram after 9 years, reunited with family
A boy who went missing from south Delhi’s Chhatarpur area when he was six years old, was traced to Gurugram and reunited with his family on Tuesday evening in an over nine-year-long saga of loss, despair, providence and perseverance.
Hassan Ali, now 16, had been living in a child care institute (CCI) in Gurugram since he was separated from his parents on March 2, 2009. He had given up on the prospect of reuniting with his family – until a chance trip to an amusement park earlier this year changed everything.
This July 22, Ali was travelling with about 100 others from the CCI to an amusement park in Sonepat. As they were crossing the Chhatarpur area, he told Ashique Ali, a CCI coordinator, that he has seen the place before, and that he remembered having been here several times with his family.
This clue triggered in 24-year-old Ashique the will to reunite Ali with his parents and to help him find his home.
That evening, while they were returning from the trip, Ashique and Ali got off the bus at Chhatarpur and asked the others to go ahead. “We kept on roaming at several places but could not get any leads. We returned, but then we kept visiting the area regularly in search of clues,” Ashique said.
Ali had gone missing from a playground in Chhatarpur. It was assumed that he had run away from the madrasa in which he studied. The two did not know that Ali’s family had since moved from Delhi to Dharuhera, 60km away.
Ashique and Ali kept making trips to Chhatarpur every few days. In the last week of July, the two met a few children playing in a small ground and asked them if there was any madrasa in the vicinity. “They took us to the maulvi, Mohammad Shamshir Qari. He immediately recognised Hassan, hugged him, and took out his mobile phone to contact the boy’s grandfather, who often called him on the off chance that Ali had returned,” said Ashique.
Qari later took the boy to his grandfather, but even he had not been in contact with the boy’s parents for a few years because of some family dispute. Ashique said, after searching for two months, they found a contact of a relative in West Bengal, but he also said he had not been in contact with the parents.
By now, word had spread in the extended Ali family, and a hunt for the parents had begun.
Eventually, on Monday evening, one of Ali’s relatives found them in Dharuhera after getting a tip that they may be there. He informed them that their son had been found a decade later. Delighted, the parents rushed to Gurugram and went straight to the CCI late at night.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes – my son was in front of me! He immediately recognised us. We were taken to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for documentation the next morning,” said Salim Mohammad, 40, the boy’s father.
Mohammad said he had sent Ali to study at a madarsa in Chhatarpur because he was then a daily wage labourer who earned Rs 50 a day and could not afford to admit him in a private school. “Hassan had refused to study at madrasa and cried a lot, but I thought he will start staying with other children, and will gradually start liking the place. Even his mother was unwilling to send him, but I wanted him to study and do well in life,” he added.
Two months after that, Mohammad got a call from the madrasa saying the boy was missing. He was last seen playing with other children in a nearby playground. It was suspected that the boy might have boarded a bus and travelled somewhere.
Mohammad said he left work to search for Ali – the family spent days at the railway station and bus stop scoping for clues – registered a missing complaint at Mehrauli police station, but could not find him.
The parents gave up after four months, and shifted to Sector 92, Gurugram, where they got a job at a construction site. “I lost my younger daughter, she fell ill and we could not take care of her. My husband had no money to look after her – we were already depressed, and one tragedy was followed by another,” said Hamida Biwi, Ali’s mother.
The parents have now learnt that the boy was spotted by Gurugram Police on the day he went missing in 2009 – he was crying on the street, all alone. He was unable to furnish details of his family despite being asked several times. He was then produced before the CWC and sent to Ujjwal Niketan, a child care in Gurugram’s Sector 4, where he lived for eight years.
In March last year, after the CCI was declared illegal for allegedly accepting two minor girls and releasing them for adoption against rules of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, Hassan was shifted to Udayan Care, a CCI in Gurugram’s Narsinghpur.
Ali studies in class 8 in a private school, and will move to his parents’ home after his exams next year.
CWC chairperson Shakuntala Dhull said they have reunited several children who went missing, but this is a unique case where a child was reunited after a gap of nine years. “Learning from this, we have directed CCIs to ask other children if they can share anything about the place, location or city they are from. They will be taken to those places and we will share the picture and details with the local police,” she said.