Kerala, parents heave sigh of relief as abducted 6-year-old girl found after 21 hrs


PTI, Nov 28, 2023, 7:30 PM IST

Representative image (source: The Logical Indian)

Kollam: All of Kerala and the parents of the six-year-old girl, who was abducted a day ago, heaved a sigh of relief after the child was found abandoned, but unharmed, by her captors at a public ground here on Tuesday afternoon.

The child was found abandoned at Kollam’s Asramam ground by female students of a nearby college and was later hospitalised.

Police said it has intensified its efforts to trace and nab the kidnappers.

The college students who found the child alone in the ground told media that they saw a woman sitting with the minor girl when they arrived there.

”Later, we saw the woman, who was wearing a mask, walk away and when she did not return, we went up to the child, who was also wearing a mask.

”When we asked the child to remove her mask and compared her with photographs circulating about the kidnapped girl, we realised who she was. We immediately informed an uncle who was sitting nearby and he called the police,” the students said.

The autorikshaw driver who dropped off the child and the woman at the grounds said he thought they were mother and daughter and therefore, did not pay much attention to them.

”When my son-in-law called and informed me that the missing child was found near Ashramam grounds I realised it must have been the same girl I dropped there. I immediately went to the police and reported it,” he told a TV channel.

As news of the child being found was received at her home, the place lit up with smiles and tears of joy, shouts of relief, claps and whistles from the relatives, friends, neighbours and other well wishers who had spent a sleepless night there since Monday.

All of them had spent over 21 hours in fear for the safety of the child who was kidnapped by four people, including a woman, when she was on her way to tuition classes along with her brother.

The girl’s mother, eight-year-old elder brother and grandparents thanked everyone for their support and prayers for the safe recovery of their child.

”I am happy I got my daughter back. God heard everyone’s prayers for the safe return of my child. God returned my child unharmed.

”I am grateful and thankful to everyone who worked hard to find my daughter,” the child’s mother told reporters.

Asked what he will do when his sister returns home, the girl’s brother said, ”I will give her a kiss. I will give her something to eat.” Visuals of the joyous development aired on TV channels also showed the mother, brother and grandparents of the child interacting with her on a video call after a gap of more than 21 hours.

The news was welcomed by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan both of whom said it was a huge relief.

Vijayan said there was concern regarding the missing child among everyone who wanted the child to be found.

The concern gave way to relief once the child was found, he said.

Satheesan said that the next step should be to find the culprits.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief K Sudhakaran too welcomed the news of the girl’s return, but said it was unfortunate the police could not trace the kidnappers.

Sudhakaran also questioned how the kidnappers could travel around while evading the police when there were systems like AI cameras ”in every nook and cranny” of Kerala as well as a huge police presence.

He alleged that this points to a failure of the security system in the state.

The KPCC chief demanded that the culprits be caught immediately and strict legal action be taken against them.

Meanwhile, state Health MInister Veena George said that a medical team of doctors examined the girl at the AR camp here and instructions have been given to them to ensure all expert treatment for the child.

Necessary medical support would also be provided to the parents of the child, the minister said in a statement.

The minister also said that the child was found thanks to the united efforts of the police and the people of Kerala.

George claimed that the kidnappers abandoned the child due to police surveillance.

Kerala police ADGP M R Ajith Kumar said the child was yet to come out of the shock following the ordeal suffered by her and she was unable to speak properly presently.

”She is under medical observation and once she stabilises, we can get more details from her,” he said.

The officer said that going by child’s account so far, she was taken to some house on Monday night, given food and then allowed to watch cartoons on a laptop before going to sleep.

In the morning, she was taken to Chinnakada here in another vehicle and from there to Asramam in an auto.

He said that the kidnappers were forced to release the child due to the pressure from the police search and inspections as well as the media’s efforts to circulate news about the abduction.

The ADGP said that police officers of all ranks spent a sleepless night trying to find the girl and carried out searches and inspections of vehicles, hotels, shanties, quarrying sites, etc in all three southern districts of the state.

”The borders were also sealed. So, we were sure the culprits had not left the Kollam-Thiruvananthapuram rural area. We were confident that during the day we would be able to find the girl,” he said.

Earlier in the day, while state ministers expressed confidence in the police investigation, the youth wing of Congress held a silent protest outside the Pooyappally police station over the delay in rescue of the girl and also indicating their dissatisfaction with the probe.

The kidnappers, suspected to be four in number including a woman, came in a white car and abducted the girl when she was on her way to tuition classes along with her eight-year-old brother, according to the boy’s statement to the police.

When the boy tried to stop the abductors, they pushed him aside and whisked the girl away in the car, an officer from the Pooyappally police station had said on Monday.

The boy suffered injuries to his knees while trying to save his sister, police had said.

The incident occurred on Monday between 4 pm and 4.30 pm, according to the police.

According to visuals shown on television news channels, two ransom calls were allegedly made by the kidnappers. Initially, they demanded Rs 5 lakh and then later doubled the figure.

In the audio recording of the purported second ransom call, the kidnappers could be heard saying that the girl is safe and unharmed and will be returned on Tuesday morning on a payment of Rs 10 lakh.

The kidnappers had also warned the parents not to inform the police.

Prior to that, a ransom call demanding Rs 5 lakh was received by the parents a few hours after the kidnapping.

Police had intensified the search for the girl, with vehicles being checked on all major and minor roads in the southern districts of Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram.

The parents of the children are nurses working in two separate private hospitals.

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