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A day after it emerged that four people who froze to death in Canada allegedly trying to cross the border illegally into the US, Dingucha village of Kalol tehsil in Gandhinagar district has become the centre of attraction in the region.
Police showed up at the village on Saturday, and reportedly called on a man whose family members travelled to Canada recently, and who are now missing.
Police and relatives said the descriptions of the missing members of the family from Dingucha — a 39-year-old man, his 37-year-old wife, and their 17-year-old daughter and four-year-old son — match with those of the four individuals who were found frozen to death in the Canadian province of Manitoba on Wednesday.
Village sarpanch Mathurji Thakor said the police had asked him if he was aware of the family’s travel plans.
“A team from Nardipur police outpost arrived at my residence on Saturday night to inquire about the family from our village. They asked me if I knew any close relatives of the family. We at the panchayat do not keep records of people travelling overseas,” Thakor said.
People in the village who knew the family said they had flown to Canada last Monday on visitor visas. This was their first visit abroad, and they had not been in touch with their relatives since Wednesday — the same day that the four bodies were found near Emerson town in Canada’s Manitoba province on the country’s border with the US. The family was part of a group of 11 individuals from Gujarat who were allegedly trying to enter the US from Canada.
Gandhinagar Collector Kuldeep Arya told The Indian Express, “We have not received any official communication from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) regarding the identity of the deceased people yet. The villagers have been informed of the same.”
KK Desai, police inspector, Kalol Taluka police station, said, “As per our records, the family went to Canada on visitor visas so there is no ground for investigation unless we are intimated by the MEA… However, a team did visit the village on Saturday and we have found that there is a family of five there, four of whom had gone to Canada leaving behind the sexagenarian grandfather. We have found out that he has now moved to Ahmedabad to stay with his younger brother.”
Amritbhai Vakil (69), a relative of the missing family, said: “I visited their house on Friday and congratulated the man’s father saying that his son and daughter-in-law were about to build new lives, and there was nothing to worry. He told me that he was unable to contact them. On Saturday, I heard about the dead Indian family on TV.”
Vakil has been living in the US for the past 33 years, and is known as “NRI kaka” in the village. He recently returned to Dingucha, an affluent urban village 40 km from Gandhinagar, many of whose bungalows, owned by people who live either abroad or elsewhere in Gujarat, stand empty and locked.
As per the census of 2011, the village had a population of 3,280, with 1,300 households. Patidars and Thakors are 40% each of the population; the rest are made up by the Prajapati and Darbar communities. The village has a government primary school, a private senior secondary school, and a primary health care centre built by the villagers themselves.
“The people of Dingucha are basically into business, farming, and private jobs. Families have moved out of here to Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, and purchased homes there as well. The NRIs usually return to the village every year for a week during Diwali,” said Kirit Prajapati, a clerk at Gandhinagar secretariat building, who lives in Dingucha.
Vakil said residents of the village have been calling relatives overseas ever since news of the deaths in Canada became known.
“A number of friends from Dingucha who now live in the US and Canada contacted me asking if I was aware of the identity of the deceased family. Families in communities such as Patidar, Darbar, and Thakor are close-knit and part of the same clan, which means everyone is distantly related to each other here,” Vakil said.
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