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Rescued child bride goes missing
Vijay Singh in Mumbai | July 07, 2004 20:14 IST
Remember Ameena, the sobbing 16 year-old who caught the attention of air-hostess Amrita Ahluwalia on a flight to Delhi from Hyderabad? The little girl was on the plane with an overaged Arab, to whom she had been married forcibly.
That was 1991. Ameena was rescued and has since married a teacher and settled down to a life of quiet domesticity. But not every Ameena is lucky enough to catch the eye of an Amrita Ahluwalia.
The Mumbai police is investigating the mysterious disappearance of Sara (name changed), 16, after she escaped from the clutches of a 46 year-old Yemeni national, Abdul Karim, to whom she was married forcibly.
Karim, his accomplice Abdul Salam, and Sara's neighbour Nasreen, who sold her to Karim for Rs 10,000, are in jail now in Dombivli in neighbouring Thane district.
Police suspect the three of being part of an organised ring of child-traffickers.
Is Sara's disappearance less than a month after the ordeal of being kidnapped and married to a man thrice her age the handiwork of this organised ring? The police are unwilling to comment at this stage.
Sara lived with her parents and three sisters in the Shivajinagar slum colony in Govandi in northeast Mumbai. According to initial investigations, she was kidnapped by Nasreen on May 22 and married to Karim the same day. The nikaah was solemnised in a lodge in Dombivli.
Sara, however, managed to escape from the lodge a few hours after her 'marriage' and returned to her home in Govandi.. After learning what her daughter had been through, Ayesha Ansari lodged a complaint with the Manpada police in Dombivli.
Karim's associate, Abdul Salam, is an exporter of eyeglasses and visits India frequently. Police believe Salam is part of a child trafficking network in Mumbai.
The cops are now looking for two women � Haseena and Sarmina � who they believe assisted Nasreen in striking a deal with Karim.
Assistant Police Inspector M Jadhav of Manpada, who is investigating the case, said: "We are looking for Haseena and Sarmina. Once we get them, it will not be difficult to get to the bottom of this case. We still don't know if they are part of an organised ring or this was a first time for them."
National Commission for Women chairperson Poornima Advani visited the Manpada police station last week and spoke to Sara's mother and the accused.
She agrees with the police theory about the possibility of a large child-trafficking network operating in Mumbai.
Sara's disappearance on June 27 has added to the police's difficulties. Sara's mother says the girl left the house after she slapped her. "I don't know where she is. She called me once and said she is fine. We have looked for her everywhere... God knows were she is."
A missing complaint has been lodged with the Shivajinagar police station.
Though Senior Police Inspector Ramesh Vadgujar of Shivajinagar admits that they get at least four or five complaints of missing children every month, he does not see a pattern to suggest the involvement of child traffickers.
"Often children run away," he said. "Love affairs, trouble with parents, school... there are any number of reasons. In many cases, they also return on their own."
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