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When three-year-old Jhanvi went missing

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon on September 28 in New Delhi, when little Jhanvi went missing from India Gate, a popular meeting place in central Delhi. The initial nightmare eventually gave way to a massive social media campaign that helped find the toddler nearly a week later.

Jhanvi’s uncle, Tarun Grover, explained to the Indian news channel NDTV, how he organized the campaign: “We are ten siblings and we divided up the work…visiting the home minister or anyone who could help us.”

Tarun Grover told NDTV how his family used paid messages on Whatsapp and Facebook to spread news about their missing relative. Friends of the family also organized candlelight vigils for the girl and invited people through social media websites like Twitter and Facebook to join in.

Posts on Jhanvi’s disappearance were retweeted several hundred times. Several celebrities also retweeted posts about the little girl.

Jhanvi was found some days later when a caller from Janakpuri in West Delhi informed Jhanvi’s father that he had seen a small girl who looked like Jhanvi in his neighborhood. She was wearing a placard around her neck with her name written on it. Her hair had been shaven, possibly because the kidnappers wanted to hide her identity.

While Jhanvi’s parents are relieved to have their child back, police are still looking for the kidnappers.  The kidnappers may have come under pressure from the wide-reaching social media campaign, speculates a report in the Hindustan Times.

A senior police officer believes that Jhanvi may have been taken away by a childless couple and not by a child-trafficking gang, as was first suspected.  “There have been several facts that hint she was staying with a childless couple. First, the child did not look stressed and her clothes were clean when she was recovered. This means that the person(s) with whom she was staying were taking proper care. From our own experience, we can say the girl would not have been treated so well had she been kidnapped by any child trafficking gang,” the police officer told Hindustan Times.

Jhanvi hasn’t spoken much since she was found, although she refers to her kidnappers as “Mummy” and “Papa.” She also said that her “Mummy” and “Papa” had shaved her head. New Delhi police are now combing through all the barber shops in the area where Jhanvi was found.

Meanwhile, Rakesh Ahuja, Jhanvi’s father, is a very relieved man. In an interview with RIA Novosti, he thanked social media users for their role in finding his daughter: “Social media has played a really big role in finding my daughter. I am delighted that my daughter is finally with me.”

Inspired by Jhanvi’s stoory, NGOs and families are turning to social media with the hope of finding their missing family members.

Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Editor: Grahame Lucas


08.10.2014 | 12:24