In December 2020, Ahmednagar Police traced 1,011 persons of 2,301 who had been missing since 2015 or later. Through operation Muskaan, the missing persons, which included 621 women and 390 men, were reunited with their families, Ahmednagar Police said.
The missing persons were traced over a month after the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court had pulled up police, after several disappearances were reported from Shirdi. In October last year, the court, while hearing the petition filed by Indore-resident Manoj Soni– whose wife had been missing since 2017– had requested the Director General of Police to step into the case to find the missing persons. Soni’s wife Deepti was found last month.
Manoj Patil, Superintendent of Police (SP), Ahmednagar told The Indian Express, “There was Operation Muskaan and definitely, there were directions from the High Court and the DG’s office at the same time. We could trace almost 40 percent of the 2,301 missing persons in one month. In all, we could trace 1,080, which included 49 people who were not registered as missing. There were people who were begging in some places. They were abandoned. Some had returned to their families on their own, but that was a small number. Many others we could trace through phone numbers, friends and acquaintances. Based on clues given by them, we could trace the missing persons.” Among those traced by the district police were also 77 of 200 children reported missing in cases of abduction, police informed.
While the directions of the High Court came following several cases of disappearances from Shirdi, the Shirdi police station traced 20 missing persons, including six women and 14 men in December. The Tophkhana police station in the district, however, traced as many as 102 persons in one month.
Patil said, “It is not correct to say Shirdi is a hub. We have found that even in other religious places like Pandharpur, Shevgaon, Kolhapur, the number of missing cases is smaller, and most cases are missing locals and not people coming from outside to visit.”
While the High Court had asked police to examine the possibilities of human-trafficking or an organ transplant racket that could be behind the disappearances, police have not found any cases of that kind.
“So far we have not got any cases of human trafficking or organ transplant rackets. But we are on the lookout. Even if there is a single case, we will try to trace it out.” said Patil.
Police inspector Bajirao Powar, the nodal officer for Operation Muskaan in Ahmednagar said, “People had gone missing for various reasons like family issues, dispute with family members, financial problems, unemployment or they did not want to get married.”
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