Two years of agony: Abduction of Priya Kumari sheds light on rising child abduction crisis in Sindh

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Khalid Banbhan

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Two years of agony: Abduction of Priya Kumari sheds light on rising child abduction crisis in Sindh

Khalid Banbhan

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Read In Urdu

Raju Mal runs a grocery shop in Sangrar town of Tehsil Salehpat in Sukkur. As usual as every year, in 2021, he set up a sabil (drinking water centres during Moharram to commemorate Karbala’s tragedy) outside his house on the 10th of Muharram. As his seven-year-old daughter Priya Kumari offered water to mourners in the sabil, unidentified individuals kidnapped her. Even after two years, there is still no trace of her.

When she went missing, Priya was a third-standard student in a local private school. Her mother, Veena Kumari, is overcome with grief. She cries constantly for her daughter and spends hours talking to the walls.

Priya’s father, Raju Mal, also could not recover from shock and trauma. At the mention of his daughter, he gets visibly emotional. He says that for 23 months, he searched for his daughter in every nook and corner of the neighbourhood, but she was nowhere to be found. Now, it seems like he is alive but as good as dead.

Raju Mal says that immediately after the abduction of his daughter, the Hindu Panchayat (local arbitration council) contacted the provincial minister for Local government and religious Affairs, Nasir Hussain Shah and the police officers. An inquiry team, including three SSP rank officers, was also formed to recover Priya Kumari. Everyone assured me she’d be recovered, but that was not to be.

“The then IG Police (Inspector General) Mushtaq Ahmed came twice to our house in Sangrar. He assured the recovery of the girl, but nothing substantial happened. The police also detained more than 300 people on suspicion. The relatives, neighbours and many passers-by were investigated, and even the mound in front of the house was dug up to look for her, but no trace of Priya was found anywhere,” Raju says.

Priya Kumari’s parents have left their native area and live in Sukkur city. They do not meet anyone and just spend their days and nights hoping they will find their daughter one day.

SSP Sukkur Singhar Malik admits that his efforts to recover Priya were futile. He says that samples were taken from Priya Kumari’s clothes during the investigation for a DNA test, which revealed a semen stain.

Sanghar says he wanted to investigate some close family members of her, but Priya’s relatives are not cooperating. According to him, in the opinion of experts, ‘if the family’s clothes are washed together, stains can get on other clothes’. Resultantly, they have not come to any conclusion yet.

The SSP says that he has given the mobile phones of Priya Kumari’s family to the FIA, but “the family says that they have forgotten the password. The phones have been with the FBI for ten days, but they say that the data will be lost if they try to unlock them without the password.”

According to Priya’s father, “How could I remember the mobile phone password when I cannot even care for myself in my daughter’s grief?

SSP Sanghar says that more than three hundred people have been investigated, including criminals. Inns and brothels have also been investigated. Priya has also been searched for in tents of nomadic tribes. However, she has not been found yet.

He says he’s sure that Priya Kumari is alive and will be found, as the girl has not been abducted for ransom, but she is missing.

On the other hand, the Sindh government has announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh for providing help and information in the search for Priya.

President of the Hindu Panchayat in Sukkur, Mukhi Ishwar Lal Makheja, says SSP Sukkur promised to recover Priya Kumari at all costs. He hopes that Priya will meet her parents soon.

Mukhi Wasoomal from Sangrar city suspects the nomads of abducting the girl. He says that during Muharram, nomads come here and set up their tents in the city. On the same day that Priya Kumari was abducted, all the nomads pulled out their tents, disappeared in the evening, and were not seen in the area again.

Mukhi Rajesh Kumar Menghwar says that the repeated investigations into Priya’s abduction caused her relatives to be so disturbed that they were forced to give up the case.

Priya Kumari’s uncle Nanak Ram says that his eight-year-old son Dhanesh says to him, “I miss my sister Priya a lot as third Muharram has come by, but Priya has not yet come back, and I am also afraid to go outside the house for the Sabil.”

The province of Sindh has seen an increase in child abductions over the past three years. It is worth mentioning that the robbers who used to swear not to lay hands on women and children are now abducting them for ransom.

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Rising incidents of children’s sexual abuse: What makes the families of victims to pardon the perpetrators

Divisional Coordinator of Sahil – a nonprofit organisation working for children’s rights – Barkat Ali Ansari, says that 4,353 children were victims of sexual violence, disappearance and early marriage last year.

According to its annual report for 2022, most of the children who were victims of sexual abuse are five to six years old. Among them, 2,325 were girls, and 1,928 were boys.

Last year, 428 cases of missing children were reported. These children belonged to Sukkur, Khairpur, Kashmore, Ghotki, Jacobabad, Larkana, Dadu, Nowshehru Feroze and other districts. Similarly, incidents of kidnapping of 95 girls were also reported.

A few months ago, five-year-old Azad Ali, son of Imtiaz Ali Mirani, was abducted from outside of his house in the Micro Tower Colony of Sukkur. Twelve-year-old Wajid, son of Muhammad Rafiq, was also kidnapped from his neighbourhood by unknown persons in Dabar Goth. An eight-year-old Samad, son of Haji Sheikh, was abducted from a residential area of Sukkur, and the abductors demanded a ransom of 25 lakhs.

According to the report, two-year-old Kausar Khoso, eight-year-old Sadaqat Hajanu, twelve-year-old Maqbool Mirani, four-year-old Samad Kumar and five-year-old Jaydeep are currently in the custody of robbers.
Interestingly, most rescued hostages were released through police encounters, but no accused has ever been arrested.

Published on 4 Sep 2023

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