Mumbai : Courage and presence of mind helped Mariya Qureshi, a 10-year-old schoolgirl, to escape from the clutches of her kidnapper on Friday morning at Bhendi Bazaar.
Mariya, a student of class five at Al Jamatul Fikriya, was waiting for her regular van at 7 am when an unidentified man approached her. Also driving a van, he asked Mariya to sit in the vehicle and claimed to be a replacement for her regular driver.
Mariya, who planted herself in the front seat of the vehicle, instantly realized that something was amiss, as there were no children in the van. She was further taken aback when the driver did not take the usual school route. She also happened to notice her regular school van parked on the other side of the road. Her fears reinforced, gritty Mariya did not think twice before jumping out of the moving vehicle.
Thankfully, there were pedestrians in the crowded area who witnessed the commotion. Says Imran Kazi, Maira’s uncle, “A BMW was parked at the spot where Maria happened to jump. The spirited driver of the BMW lost no time in chasing the van and tailed him till Byculla. He even jotted the number of the vehicle and informed the police about the incident.”
The accused abandoned the vehicle after reaching Chembur. Later, the police zeroed in on the stranded vehicle and the documents in the van helped them access the owner, one Subaira Gafoor, a resident of Dongri.
Additional Commissioner (South Region) Krishna Prakash said, “Subaira has informed us that though she owns the vehicle she had given it on rent to one Raju Khan. We asked her to call Raju and ask him to bring over the vehicle at her residence. Raju agreed to come over and explain the situation. We were waiting and nabbed him as soon as he arrived.”
The accused has been identified as a resident of Govandi: he is married with two kids. He has been booked under IPC section 363 for kidnapping, Sec 354 for molestation and Sec 10 of the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act.
Sanjay Diwadkar, the Investigating officer from Dongri Police station, said, “We are probing the matter. We are yet to ascertain the intention of the accused — whether it was a case of kidnapping or molestation. We are quizzing the accused and will soon reach a conclusion.”
Mariya was admitted at JJ Hospital as she had fractured her left hand in the incident; later she was discharged.
“She displayed rare courage and we will be more than happy to felicitate her in whatever way possible,” added Prakashan.