This is a tale of two mothers, two homes — one under the open sky in New Delhi, the other in a village in Bihar — and one stolen child.

The first mother is Poonam, from whose arms the child was taken away on the night of June 14 when they slept on the pavement outside the Tagore Garden Metro station. After five days of search by a six-member team of anti-narcotics squad, scanning footage from scores of CCTV cameras, the child was found in the arms of a woman in Sitamarhi.

That woman, Shobha Devi, is now in jail for paying Rs 3 lakh so that she could be mother to the child. And, at the small, shifting patch of their home, back at the metro station, a family has been reunited.

“It was around 3 – 3.30 (am) that night. I was sleeping here,” Poonam says, pointing towards a worn-out sofa lying on the pavement. “My son… one-year-old boy… was sleeping on my arm. Suddenly, I felt someone was pulling the child… By the time I woke up, I saw a man running with my child,” she recalls. “I ran after him. I couldn’t catch him… there was another man waiting for him on a motorcycle and they fled away.. I kept on crying for help. I wept but there was no one to help.”

Poonam is 25. She has four children: two boys and two girls — the oldest is an 8-year-old boy. Her husband Govardhan, she says, died some time ago. “One night he coughed and coughed and then died… he was addicted to drugs,” she says. “Till he (husband) was alive, we used to rent a small jhuggi in front of the (Guru Gobind Singh) hospital. Now I can’t afford the rent. We live here on the pavement now”. Poonam says she “sells old clothes and occasionally, balloons” to feed her family. “When my child was stolen, I had thought I would never see him again…I was in a lot of pain. You know how we are treated by people…nobody helps. I had no hope but I went to the police. That was the only thing I could do. I am happy I went there.”

Festive offer

Poonam rushed to the Rajouri Garden police station. “They listened to me. They asked me what happened and wrote my complaint and told me not to worry,” she recalls. The police say that Poonam approached them at 5am.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police (West), Vichitra Veer, was immediately informed. A team of five police officials — Inspector Anuj Yadav, Sub Inspector Manish, Head constable Dinesh, Constables Kashi Ram and Vikas — led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Raghuveer, was formed.

Lone clue: A Splendor motorcycle

The police had only one clue: the child traffickers had fled on a motorcycle. “The footage of around 100 CCTV cameras on the road that the kidnappers had taken was carefully scanned. Every frame was checked,” a police officer said. “We wanted to identify the motorcycle used in the crime. We saw a black Splendor. Its number plate was partially visible in the footage and on the basis of four numbers (8893) that we could make out, we made another move. We zeroed in on almost 400 motorcycles with the help of the traffic control room.” He said that the process to identify the motorcycle took more than 40 hours. “We found that the black Splendor was registered in the name of a resident of (neighboring) Karampura. He told us that his bike is used by his son Manish Kumar Gupta who lives in Narela,” the police officer said. DCP Veer immediately dispatched a police team and Gupta was arrested.

The police questioned Gupta and he spilled the beans. “Manish revealed that he and Mohit Tiwari from Gonda (UP) abducted the child and sold him to Shobha Devi from Sitamarhi in Bihar,” the police officer said. “Shobha Devi had been married for 15 years but did not have a child. She was desperate. She used to work in the Tagore Garden area so she knew Manish. Manish and Mohit told her that they can arrange a child for Rs 3 lakh. She readily agreed. Manish and Mohit had planned the abduction and had asked Shobha Devi to wait at New Delhi railway station. Once they stole the child, they went straight to the railway station and handed him over to Shobha Devi who took him home in Sirsian village in Sitamarhi.”

The team of West Delhi’s Anti-Narcotics didn’t waste any time. Four members of the team rushed to Sitamarhi. Around 4.30am on June 16, the police teams raided the house where Shobha Devi and her husband Shiv Shankar Pandit lived. “We knocked on the door and Shobha’s husband opened the door. We rushed inside,” the police officer said. “The child was sleeping in her arms”.