On December 13, 2013, Pradhikaran-based Sanjay Kanthale’s elder brother Neelkanth (50), who was mentally challenged, stepped out of his house in the evening and never returned. Since that day, whenever anyone would tell the family that they saw a person resembling Neelkanth in some area, the family members would immediately reach the place to find him. However, despite their efforts, they couldn’t find him for years. Last week, on May 6, the family’s search finally ended. Thanks to the exhibition organised by the Pune Rural Police at its headquarters from May 2 to 7, which showcased 19,000 photographs of missing people and 6,500 photos of unidentified bodies.
Between May 2 to May 7, over 2,500 people attended the exhibition and altogether 24 cases have been solved, which includes six cases of unidentified bodies and 18 cases of missing people. The photographs on display were of the cases registered over the past seven years in 13 places including Pune city, Pune rural, Solapur city, Satara, Sangli, Solapur rural, Raigad, Ahmednagar, Navi Mumbai, Palghar, Pune Railway, Kolhapur and Thane.
“Since my brother was mentally-challenged, he would go missing for a few days several times in the past but he always came back. Despite his mental situation, he would work for a wedding band in Pune. Whether there was work or not, he would travel daily from Pradhikaran to Pune by a local. That day (December 13, 2013), he was unwell and had fever. I had got medicines for him. By the time my mother went into the kitchen to fetch him water for medicines, he stepped out and didn’t come back,” says Sanjay, who works with a security agency.
Sanjay says though their constant searches didn’t yield any result, their hope was intact. “I had read about a case a few years ago in which a boy was reunited with his family in Kashmir after 15 years. Hence I always hoped my brother must be somewhere.”
According to Sanjay, at first he didn’t find his brother’s photograph after browsing through all the files at the exhibition. Then he approached a police official, who asked him about his brother’s daily routine. When Sanjay told him his brother would travel by a local train everyday, the police official asked him to check the file of Pune Railways. After an hour of search, they finally found case no. 441, which had a photograph that matched his brother’s. That is when they discovered he had died the same day he went missing.
“This kind of exhibition should be organised every three months. There will be so many families who must be living in an uncertainty for several years. Also, it should be publicised well,” says 48-year-old Sanjay.
Among the 18 missing people who were traced was a girl from Pune who was reported missing a few months ago. Through the feedback shared by a few attendees at the exhibition, the police were able to trace her in Lonavala. Likewise, 17 other missing people from Pune rural, Pune city, Solapur city and Palghar who were traced.
Ram Jadhav, police inspector, Local Crime Branch (LCB), said, “Many a time, cases of missing people remain unsolved for years. In some cases, while the family stays in one city, its relative’s body is found in another city and hence is not traced for years. This exhibition aims to reunite such families with the person they have been searching for.”