More than one lakh children go missing in our country every year. Most of them are never found again by their families and vanish into the unknown. Vansh could have been one such child had not an NGO called Drishti, 1,500 km away from his home, found his father with the help of some good people in Sikkim and the Station House Officer in Modinagar.
Vansh is the second among three sons of Mr. Babli Gujjar. He lost his mother when he was just four. Mr. Gujjar works in an oxygen plant located in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh. After the death of his wife, his mother took care of the children but, just a few years ago, she too passed away. Now, Mr.Gujjar had no choice other than leaving the children alone at his residence at Modinagar, Sikri Khurd, in the Gaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh (UP), when he went to work.
The children used to play at home after coming back from school, until their father came back from work. Mr. Gujjar felt bad about this but he was just an oxygen cylinder filler who earned about enough to feed his children and could not afford a caretaker for them.
On June 22, 2013, just like any other day, 8-year-old Vansh was playing with his brothers, Dipanshu and Varun, after coming back home from school. But Vansh wandered off too far while playing and reached the railway gate located almost 1 km away from his house. He found a stationary train there and, out of curiosity, climbed aboard. Soon, the train started moving. A helpless and scared Vansh, not knowing what else to do, sat quietly till the train reached Chennai.
When he got down at Chennai, two people took him to Siliguri, and then to a place near Singla Tea Estate,West Bengal. Later, a Lepcha couple from Soreng, Sikkim, ‘adopted’ him illegally and kept him in their house, as a foster child.
Unaware of all this, Vansh’s distraught father filed a missing complaint with the Modinagar police station about his son. But, unfortunately, he did not have a recent photograph of Vansh that he could give to the police, and hence it was all the more difficult to trace him. Finally, after one year (in 2014), Mr. Gujjar found a photograph of Vansh that had been clicked by a relative at a marriage function. He gave this to the police.
“I went wherever possible to search for my child. I searched all around Modinagar, Gaziabad, Delhi, and even Haridwar. I used to take leave from work for 10 to 15 days at a stretch and go looking for Vansh. I lost all hope of getting him back,” says Mr. Gujjar.
In the meantime, the couple who had adopted Vansh started abusing him physically whenever he demanded to go back home. Vansh, too, lost all hope of returning to Modinagar.
However, a good samaritan who stayed near Vansh’s new house couldn’t see the pain in his eyes. On September 16, 2015, he called an NGO, Drishti, in Namchi, and narrated the story of the boy.
Mr. Passang Tshering Bhutia, General Secretary of Drishti, with the help of a few other officials in Namchi and Gangtok, rescued Vansh on September 16, 2015. Vansh was brought to Manjusha, a short-stay home run by Drishti for temporary shelter.
On being rescued, Vansh told Mr. Bhutia: “I told them (his ‘foster’ parents) repeatedly that my house is in Modinagar but they used to hit me whenever I said this. So I stopped asking them to drop me back home.”
Mr. Bhutia used Google to locate Modinagar in the Gaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh. He also showed a picture of the Modi temple to Vansh to confirm that this indeed was his hometown. Vansh recognized the temple. Now that they were sure that he was from the Gaziabad area, Mr. Bhutia contacted the police there.
However, Vansh’s last name got written down as Gujrati instead of Gujjar, which led the police to search for Gujrati families in Modinagar.
After eight days, when nothing remarkable happened, Mr. Bhutia searched for the number of the Station House Officer (SHO) of Modinagar Mr. Deepak Sharma, and called him.
Without wasting a minute, SHO Sharma asked Mr. Bhutia to send him the kid’s picture on Whatsapp and also asked Vansh for some landmarks close to his house.
Vansh told them that his house was located near a flour mill and there was a shop which had lots of big speakers nearby. The SHO also figured out that Vansh might be a Gujjar and not Gujrati, as most of the people in Modinagar belonged to the Gujjar community. With all this information, finally, the police were able to trace Vansh’s father on October 1, 2015. Once again, Mr. Gujjar’s photograph was also shared through Whatsapp with Mr. Bhutia so that he could show it to Vansh for identification.
Vansh’s father, Mr. Babli Gujjar, and his uncle Mr. Lalit Kumar, reached Namchi on October 6, 2015 and all the formalities of reuniting the father and son were done by the Child Welfare Committee there.
On October 8, 2015, just thirteen days before Vansh’s 11th birthday, his father took him home in a train again.
“I can’t thank Mr. Bhutia and Drishti enough! I had lost all hopes of getting my child back. It’s like a miracle and they are like angels for me,” says Mr. Babli Gujjar.
You can contact Mr. Bhutia from Drishti at firstname.lastname@example.org