For Iqbal Ali of Prem Nagar at Nangloi in West Delhi, this Id is extra special.
“This year we are celebrating a very special Id because God has gifted us our firstborn back. He has come back to us safe and sound. It’s a miracle,” said the elated man as he hugged his 11-year-old son.
Irfan had gone missing on his way back from school over two years ago and returned home only this past Sunday. On his way back from Choudhary Baldev Singh Public School on April 6, 2010, Irfan decided to stay back and chat with friends.
“He says it was dark [around 8 p.m.] and he remembers walking back home when two persons on a motorbike grabbed him. Irfan says he lost consciousness and woke up in a dark place surrounded by buffaloes,” said his mother Shabnam.
Sitting close to his mother in their one-bedroom first floor house, Irfan then gave some sketchy details of his time away from home.
“I cannot recall the name of the place I was taken to. There was, however, a sardar [Sikh man] who would give me food once a day. I was made to clean the cattle shed, bathe the animals, give them food, etc. At night, I was tied to a pole along with the buffaloes. I never saw anyone else during my time there. One night when the sardar did not come to give me food and left me untied, I managed to escape. I ran through the night only to find myself outside a factory in Ludhiana the next morning.”
“I was terrified of being subjected to the same torture that I had previously endured so I refused to speak to anyone. Later factory owner Subhas Chand Garg, who gave me food and shelter, saw my photo among the missing children list on television and arranged for my return to Delhi. But even after I reached Delhi, because of extensive construction in my area, I could not remember where my house was. And that was when a school friend recognised me and brought me home.”
The entire neighbourhood poured out to witness the happy reunion the Sunday Irfan returned.
“Irfan just came and stood at the door. We went blank with happiness, surprise and sheer force of the miracle that was happening in front of us,” said Mr. Ali, as tears welled up in his eyes.
Though Irfan is back safe home, there is no news of the three other children who went missing from the same locality during the same month as Irfan. Barsa went missing on April 6, Buria on April 11 and Kajol on April 21.
Mr. Ali, who used to run a small bakery, candidly stated: “This is not a child-friendly area. We have now trained our children to be alert and keep an eye on each other. Police and politicians only agree to help us to a point.”
“For two years after Irfan went missing I, along with other parents, would go to the local police station everyday to find out about the progress in the case. We sold whatever little assets we had to pool in money and look for our children, we even printed posters and pasted them in the market place to gather information about these children, but so far only Irfan has come back, that too because he managed to escape and then was helped by a good Samaritan.”
As for Ms. Shabnam, she spelt out how the family’s priority now was Irfan’s return to school. “As for now we are celebrating our son’s return and he is very excited about his little sister, who is now five-months-old. Finally the family seems complete. After the festival we are planning to enrol Irfan in a school.”