There are some happy endings too

Deepu's mother still has no idea why her little son was kidnapped

Seated on a pink plastic stool in an open space outside a tiny room, Deepu merrily drums a discarded metal box with two thin sticks plucked out from a broom.

His mother Geeta Devi sweeps the floor of the ice cream parlour in Gole Market where she is employed. “He knows my eyes are always at him. He has promised me he will never accompany a stranger again. Try him,” she says.

“Deepu, come with me to the market. I will buy you a chocolate,” this reporter tests the four-year-old boy. “What if you don’t bring me back home?” Deepu shoots back immediately with a smiling face. That was a deviation from the monosyllables that he had been replying in otherwise.

“Though he normally appears happy, he behaves very scared at times ever since his return. I am his mother and can feel the fear in him. Unlike before he was kidnapped, he listens to me now. I don’t like this change in him,” says Geeta who lost her husband a few years ago.

Deepu was playing at the very same spot in New Delhi’s Gole Market area on the evening of June 30 this year. Her mother had returned from bath to find him missing. “I had given him an ice-cream and gone into the bathroom just for five minutes,” she says.

The battle after that lasted for 26 days before Deepu was rescued from a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi district where he had been abandoned by his kidnappers following police pressure.

With little knowledge of social media, Geeta relied on word of mouth, personal investigation and posters. “Police published English posters. We got ours printed in Hindi,” says Vinod Kumar Kesri, one of the employees at the ice cream parlour.

While most neighbours were great help, a few of them called her mad. “Some of them would laugh at me. But most others would try to make me laugh to reduce my pain. If I would get information about Deepu being sighted anywhere in the city, I would request my neighbours to go and check. They went on whatever they could find. They went on bicycles, motorcycles, cycle-rickshaws, autos, anything,” says Geeta.

Someone suggested her that she seeks help from the media. “Only two Hindi newspapers carried the news in brief. The reporters said I was informing them late about the incident. Despite many news vans being parked in nearby areas at all times, TV channels did not help,” says Geeta.

But she was cooperative with the media after a couple of other reporters contacted her once Deepu was rescued. Geeta says: “The kidnappers have not been caught yet. I am scared they might make a second attempt to kidnap Deepu. I might need the media then.”

Initial police action had left her disheartened and she claims she provided police with vital clues in the case. “The policeman investigating the case was unable to find out anything. I found out from one of my neighbours that Deepu was last seen with a young labourer who had earlier worked in this area,” says Geeta.

The woman, with help from neighbours, traced the contractor who had hired the suspect and managed to extract his wife’s phone number. She says she shared the information with police and that put the kidnappers under pressure though their address remained unknown. “The policeman was unwilling to visit Uttar Pradesh and went there only after I met some senior officers,” claims Geeta.

Deepu had been abandoned outside an elderly couple’s home. “The couple understood something was wrong and had informed police. Deepu stayed with them for a week before Delhi Police found him. He had been treated well by the old couple,” says Vinod Kumar Kesri, one of the employees of the ice cream parlour.

But the treatment meted out to him by the kidnappers was rough.

“They beat me,” Deepu tells this reporter. Why? “I wanted mummy.” They beat you with what? “With hands.”

Did they offer food? “No,” he says. Not at all? “Not at all.”

“They didn’t starve him,” Geeta interrupts. But she points at Deepu’s now “shrunken” face. There is a marked difference in Deepu’s health now when compared with a photograph published by police after he was abducted. He looked much healthier then.
Geeta says her reunion with Deepu was marred by a shocking change in Deepu. He had been rechristened ‘Shivam’ by his kidnappers.

“He was happy on seeing me, but initially he did not respond to the real name. When police asked him his name, he said he was Shivam,” says Geeta.

In a couple of days after his rescue, Deepu let go of the new name and returned to his old world. “Shivam”, this reporter casually calls out to see if he responds to that name. Deepu just continues drumming away without raising his head.

Geeta says she has no idea why Deepu had been kidnapped.

“I don’t discuss the possibilities even with my neighbours. Thinking about it snatches my peace of mind because the kidnappers are still roaming free. They abducted my son from right outside my house.”

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