Child abduction is a seriously growing problem in India, and the statistics will tell you the same. Recent lynching should not cloud the serious issue of missing children.
The National Crime Records Bureau in its last statistical report for 2016 reported that 1,11,569 children were reported missing that year across India. While half the cases had a happy ending of sorts, 55,625 children, who were reported missing and presumed abducted, remained untraced at the end of the year. Not all of these children were abducted; many would be runaways, some searching for glamour in the big city, some to be with a love and others to escape an abusive household. But there is no doubt that many of these children were abducted; the bias towards female victims, two-thirds of the missing children were females points towards the potential of sexual exploitation. At the same time, while metropolitan areas have good crime record keeping, in rural areas many cases of missing children and child abduction remain underreported.
So, it is not surprising that there is a genuine fear of child snatchers in rural, particularly tribal areas of the country. The myth of the child snatcher is deeply embedded in ancient storytelling across the world and the crime is considered more heinous in the human mind as an act against an innocent than any other. And it should not be surprising that rumours of child-snatchers in an area can energise mobs to gather much more than any other sort of criminal rumour.
So, while much needs to be done about countering the spread of false rumours on social media, may be the police force across the country should do more to assuage local populations about the safety of their children, particularly in more remote areas where the police is particularly ineffectual. Much more for example can and should be done to prosecute those found guilty of child trafficking either for sexual exploitation and worse, and horribly common in cities, slavery, often in middle-class homes. In a country as large as India, child abductions will not disappear overnight, but only action against those feeding the demand and customers alike will at least mitigate the problem. And while social media rumours do need to be reined in, without understanding and tackling the root cause of the issue, we as usual will be barking up the wrong tree and incidents of lynching of people wrongly suspected to be child-snatchers will only continue.
Writer: The Pioneer
Courtesy: The Pioneer