Until a week ago, theirs was a nondescript family living in the bylanes of Raghubir Nagar, West Delhi. Like many around them, their home too was abuzz with festivity. All that was to change last Sunday evening when they decided to join the residents of their street on the lawns of India Gate.
Their daughter, Jahnvi Ahuja, disappeared in the teeming crowd on the lawn. While police suspect kidnapping — even human trafficking — and have teams fanned out in search of the child, Jahnvi’s family has begun a nationwide campaign to trace the three-year-old.
From circulating WhatsApp messages to putting up posts on Facebook and posters on auto-rickshaws, the family has not left any avenue unexplored. Each member of the family has a poster on his/her car with Jahnvi’s photograph and a contact number. Over a thousand posters have been distributed in India Gate area among auto-rickshaw drivers and cycle rickshaw men.
“She was with us throughout. It took only two minutes for us to be distracted and she was gone. No one took us seriously at first. Police refused to help until we searched the whole India Gate area till midnight and informed them that she was not to be found. It was a papad seller who told us there was a CCTV camera in the area. We asked police to check the footage. All we got was a shot of Jahnvi playing at 9.21 pm. By the time the camera panned around, she was gone,” Jahnvi’s aunt Pooja said.
On Sunday, 11 families from Raghubir Nagar and Faridabad planned a picnic to Hanuman Mandir at Connaught Place followed by a visit to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. Later, they planned a visit to India Gate before heading home. Jahnvi’s mother Sheetal is a teacher at a private school while her father Rakesh is self-employed. Jahnvi is their only child.
“We were all sitting on the lawns with the children playing nearby. Jahnvi and two of her cousins were playing when we asked them to come back and put on their shoes,” Jahnvi’s grandmother Geeta Grover said.
The family recalls two instances that could probably explain Jahnvi’s disappearance. While they on the lawns, a man, who the family claimed was in an inebriated state, came to them and asked for money. When they refused, the man reportedly threatened to attack them.
The second instance, the family said, happened just two minutes before Jahnvi went missing. A priest came to them and asked them to perform a specific puja for Navratri. The family refused him and the priest walked away. But by then Jahnvi too had disappeared. Both the priest and the man were questioned by police. But police have not established their role so far.
The family has not received a ransom call either. While a case of kidnapping has been registered at the Tilak Marg police station, the family suspects Jahnvi to be a victim of human-trafficking.
“Sheetal has not eaten anything since Sunday. She wonders whether Jahnvi would have eaten anything,” Geeta said.