For three days and nights, family members of Laxmi and Vineeta, two sisters who had gone missing on September 16 in west Delhi Nihal Vihar, looked for them in vain. They hired eight e-rickshaws, made public announcements and travelled across several localities — Vikas Nagar, Vikaspuri, Paschim Vihar, Nangloi, Begumpur — in search of the two girls.
As their family continued its frantic search for days, Laxmi, 3, and Vineeta, 1, remained locked inside a banquet hall located only a few metres from their residence.
On Monday, by the time they were found inside the M S Vatika Banquet Hall in Nilothi Extension, Vineeta had died. “We did everything possible, we hired eight e-rickshaws and looked for them all through the day and night. We neither ate nor slept… still we could not save our daughter,” says Manoj Kumar (35), the father of the two girls. Kumar works as a security guard in one of the banquet halls in the locality.
At the family’s one-room house in Nihal Vihar, the girls’ mother Mamta (27), holds on to a picture of her youngest daughter, as Laxmi sits on her lap. Speaking about the day her daughters went missing, Mamta says, “I was washing clothes at 4 pm and they were playing next to me… suddenly, I could not see them any more… I started looking for them.”
She says when she went looking for them, towards Vatika Banquet Hall, the caretaker told her he had “no idea where the children were”.
“I think the caretaker deliberately locked them inside,” she claims. Mamta says Laxmi told her that “a man in the banquet hall had offered them chips and put them inside.”
She finds it difficult to describe the condition her youngest daughter, Vineeta, was found in. “One side of her face was swollen and ants were crawling on it,” she says. A case of death due to negligence had been added to the FIR and the caretaker has been arrested.
“Initial investigation has revealed that the incident was not deliberate. The girls were accidentally locked inside the banquet hall,” said DCP (west Delhi) Pushpendra.