An 8-year-old girl went missing from her home in Chandrapur, Maharashtra in the year 1995. Thanks to the efforts of Chandrapur Police, she was finally reunited last month with her family after two long decades.
It was Diwali. Eight-year-old Jyotsna played the entire day with her siblings and then went to her aunt’s place to watch television. She did not realize it was almost dark. When her father Namdeo Dhavale, an auto-trolley driver, came back home from a tiring day at work and did not see Jyotsna, he was furious. Shashikala, Jyotsna’s mother, did not want to see her daughter beaten up when she returned home so she asked her to stay back at her aunt’s house and come back in the morning.
But instead, upset with her father, Jyotsna ran away and sat in a train standing on the railway tracks near her house in Dattanagar, Chandrapur.
When Jyotsna did not return home by 10 am the next day, her mother raised an alarm and the family started searching for her. They searched at relatives’ homes and in nearby villages too. When they did not find her after three days, they lodged a missing person complaint at the police station. However, since they did not have a photograph of the child, the police were unable to trace Jyotsna.
Days, months and years passed and the Dhavales slowly started to believe their daughter Jyotsna was dead. But, what had really happened to Jyotsna?
On the fateful day Jyotsna left home, she boarded a train leaving for Mumbai. After about 20 hours, she reached this big city and started asking people how she could return to Chandrapur. Someone pointed out a train to her and she boarded it, thinking it would take her home. But the train reached Secunderabad instead. As this little child had not eaten anything for a day now, she went to a small restaurant close to the station and asked for food. The restaurant owner gave her something to eat and asked her some questions.
Jyotsna thought he might help her get back to her family but, instead, he took her to his sister’s house where she was kept as a maid. More than a year passed and Jyotsna still had not found a way to go back to Chandrapur. Then, something unexpected happened. The family sheltering her took her with them when they went on a vacation to Kerala. One day, when Jyotsna was feeling extremely unwell, she refused to work. Infuriated by this, the family threw her out on the streets in this totally unknown place. And once again, Jyotsna reached a railway station, asking people how she could go back to Chandrapur. This time, she sat in a train to Bengaluru, where the police saw the lean and sick kid and left her in an NGO called Childline.
Finally, Jyotsna was in a place where she could get an education. She studied till Class 10 here and also learnt some skills like sewing and stitching. When she was older, she married a hostel staff member named M. Shivashakti. Soon, they had two children named Sheeba and Shyam.
Jyotsna had started her life afresh and was happy with her new family now. But she still missed her roots, and her parents and siblings in Chandrapur.
Working as a receptionist now in an IT firm in Bengaluru, Jyotsna would often talk to some of her colleagues about her background.
“While discussing with a colleague about my hunt, I was told to get in touch with the Chandrapur police station. The logic was that my parents would have surely lodged a police complaint after I went missing. So, I got in touch with the Chandrapur police helpline,” Jyotsna told The Banglore Mirror.
On March 14, 2016, Jyotsna made a call to the Chandrapur Police helpline number. Constable Mamta Madavi received her call and was shocked to hear Jyotsna’s story.
“She did not remember the year she was lost, she did not remember her last name. All she said was that her father’s name was Namdeo and he was an auto driver. She said she had been lost some 18-20 years ago in Chandrapur,” said Constable Mamta.
Mamta narrated Jyotsna’s story to Superintendent of Police Sandip Diwan, who decided to handle the case in a different way. Generally, missing cases are given to the crime branch. But as Jyotsna couldn’t recollect the incidents that happened to her as a child, he decided to hand her case over to the women’s cell.
After a thorough interrogation, the women’s cell learnt from Jyotsna that her house was located near a railway track and there was a temple too near her home. As Jyotsna could not recollect the year she went missing, all the missing complaint files from the year 1994 to 1996 were checked. An informer was also appointed to search for an auto-trolley driver named Namdeo, who might have lost a daughter some 20 years ago.
The team of Assistant Police Inspector Vanamala Pargi, Constable Chaya and Constable Mamta worked hard to find Jyotsna’s parents.
“She couldn’t recollect her last name. That was the only tough part as there were many auto drivers named Namdeo in the city,” said Constable Mamta.
Finally, after an intense search of eight days, the team found a missing report in a 1995 file for the 8-year-old daughter of auto-trolley driver, Namdeo Dhavale.
“Though it seemed the case was tough I was sure it was not impossible. The girl had been searching for her parents for the past 21 years. It was our duty to help her. It gives us immense satisfaction that our efforts were fruitful and she could meet her family,” said SP Sandip Diwan.
Namdeo and his family were called to the police station and it was confirmed that Jyotsna was their daughter.
“I called Jyotsna from my mobile and told her that we found her parents. She asked if she could talk to them. It was an emotional moment for the entire police station. Her mother took the phone and Jyotsna asked from the other side – ‘Didn’t you search for me?’ Both mother and daughter were in tears, and so were we,” said Constable Mamta.
On April 13, 2016, Jyotsna came to Chandrapur with her husband and kids to meet her family.
“Whenever I saw her friends growing up, I missed her. I would say, ‘My Jyotsna would have been this big too if she was here.’ We did not celebrate Diwali since the day she went missing. I am so thankful to God and to the police who reunited us with our daughter,” said Shashikala Dhavale, Jyotsna’s mother.
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