When a 22-year-old wrestler asked his 14-year-old “friend” in 2016 if he wanted to flee Delhi and live in Rajasthan, the boy agreed. Over the next two years, while the older man participated in wrestling tournaments in Rajasthan, the teenager sold juice and they saved enough money to buy an e-rickshaw.
Then came an Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) team from the Delhi Police Crime Branch. While the 22-year-old was arrested on April 5 and charged with kidnapping, the 14-year-old was taken back to his family — though he told police he had left of his own free will, officers said.
The AHTU unit maintains that even though the boy left of his own accord and no harm came to him, they have to charge the 22-year-old under sections of kidnapping as per the law. The 14-year-old’s father said, “He looked after my son like a father. He fed him, gave him company and paid for his food. They are just boys who got fed up of Delhi and decided to live an independent life… But I am glad my son is back. We cried when we hugged each other.”
The boy was traced by a team comprising investigating officer Vinod Kumar and led by ACP Surender Kumar Gulia.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rajiv Ranjan said, “The young boy was preparing to become a wrestler in a local akhara. The accused was also a wrestler who was rusticated for misconduct. After local police could not trace the boy, a Rs 25,000 reward was announced.”
“The accused would make the boy give him a massage after practice sessions. When we got to know this, the team initially suspected a sexual assault angle. But a medical report of the boy did not indicate that,” said an officer from AHTU.
Police claimed that after being rusticated, the accused waited outside the akhara for two days and eventually took the boy with him on November 30, 2016. They travelled to Haryana and finally settled in Rajasthan. The accused made some money wrestling in local tournaments, and also set up a juice shop. They later sold sugarcanes and bought an e-rickshaw after saving enough money.
Meanwhile, the minor’s parents searched for their son in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab before giving up.
After the case was transferred to the Crime Branch, police made a list of areas famous for wrestling tournaments and focused on Rajasthan, where the boy was found.
The minor’s father said that in his mind, he imagined how furious he would be with his son when they finally met. “Instead, I welcomed my son with drums and a garland. Now, we will send him to a school and not an akhara. If he wants to wrestle… we shall see about that in the future,” the father said.