After climbing several hillocks, swimming across rivers and watching out for Naxal troop movement, about 60 officers from the Bandgaon police station finally managed to trace Jutho Guriya from Jalasar village in Jharkhand’s Chaibasa district.
The farmer had been idling away at his fields when police arrived and asked him about his 16-year-old daughter. He trembled and broke down. What followed was a six-hour descent from the sleepy hamlet of Jalasar to Chaibasa SP office. “We had to travel most of the way on foot, using motorcycles only for a short duration. We somehow managed to find him after talking to local Munda leaders,” said SP, Chaibasa, Anish Gupta.
Along the way, Guriya asked police if his daughter was okay, only to be told that she was alive and in a hospital in Delhi. By the time he reached the Chaibasa SP’s office, photographs of his daughter were shown — with a swollen eye, bruises and cuts across her body.
Guriya had never travelled on a bus, train or a bicycle, fearing Maoist attacks. But to get his daughter back, he stepped on an airplane for the first time. The girl’s mother stayed at home. According to the police complaint, his daughter, now stable, had been allegedly assaulted with a weighing machine, burnt with hot water and iron, choked and starved by her employer Nidhi Chaudhary, a dentist at Model Town.
The girl had been working as a maid at her house for four months, till one day locals noticed her gesturing for help on the balcony, and reached out to the DCW and local police.
Guriya did not think much of the flight. “It is just like walking in my village. I used to walk to the Sunday market every week with my daughter. It took us six hours,” he said.
The meeting with his daughter, though, lasted only 10 minutes. As soon as Guriya saw her, his eyes welled up. “My daughter told me she wanted to go back. I will never let her leave my side now,” Guriya said.
Father and daughter spoke about her four-month stay, with the latter stopping and pointing to her wounds every few minutes. “I never wanted her to leave for Delhi, but she insisted. Anita brought her here,” he said. Anita is now the main suspect in the case and Delhi Police teams have reached Chaibasa to ascertain her whereabouts.
“That is not even her real name. Many girls in the district have gone missing and we will coordinate with the local SP to trace the other children,” said Rishi Kant from Shakti Vahini, whose team assisted with the search operations at Chaibasa.
Guriya was paid Rs 10,000 last year by Anita to let his daughter leave for work. He said she returned a few months later, telling him about life in Delhi. “She told me she was looked after and was eating well. She told me I should not stop her from leaving again,” he said. The next time, she left to work at Chaudhary’s home.
Sitting with a Rs 80,000 cheque and Rs 20,000 in cash from the Chaibasa district administration, Guriya plans to send his daughter to school. “She was always smart, but she could not continue her studies. I want to send her to school, away from all this,” he said.