Police fails to trace 21-day-old baby; father, grandmother go into hiding

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Jammu and Kashmir police failed to locate a 21-day-old baby — snatched from her mother immediately after birth by estranged in-laws — while the infant’s grandmother and father also went into hiding.

The police had launched the search for the missing baby following directions from the High Court yesterday which had ordered the police to trace the infact using “all measures immediately … whatever are necessary”.

The missing infant has become the centre of the police search after she was snatched from her mother Mahrukh Iqbal, who then approached the court for her custody, by her father’s family and her location has been kept secret for last two weeks.

At the hearing on Wednesday, the court appreciated the effort of the police but added that the “endeavour should result in recovery of the child before anything untoward happens to her”.

The Station House Officer (SHO), Police Station, Nishat, Srinagar, had raided different “suspicious” locations, including the house of Iqbal’s in-laws, but “the child was not found and no clue with regard to her place of confinement could be got”.

The court was further informed that the petitioner’s husband and her mother-in-law Rabia Shah were also not available at the raided places “and have gone into hiding with the
infant baby”.

The court ordered the Superintendent of Police, East Zone, Srinagar, to also avail electronic and technical help in tracing out the location of the child. “This may include
coordinating the Cyber Crime Police in the process,” the court said.

Iqbal has said she was illegally locked and confined in the room for eight consecutive days after the child’s birth while her in-laws snatched the newborn. She has also expressed an apprehension that the child may have been killed.

For three days after the baby’s birth, Iqbal was allowed to breastfeed her child only thrice. From 11 August 2021, Iqbal has alleged that she has not seen her child.

On the same day, when she enquired about the whereabouts of her child, the father-in-law told her that the family had gone out with the baby and would return by the evening. However, when they didn’t return, “he told her that she would never be able to see her infant daughter again and that he will make sure that the petitioner craves for the sight of her child,” read Iqbal’s petition.

According to the petitioner, she was then locked and “illegally/wrongfully confined in the room for eight consecutive days and even her phone was snatched from her”.

On 18 August, after managing to get hold of her mobile phone she contacted the Women’s Police Helpline to file a complaint after which she was taken to the Women Police Station, Rambagh.

Iqbal then filed the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking recovery of her 20 days’ old child from her in-laws and sought her child’s custody.

The court, in its order yesterday, had said that it cannot remain “a silent observer” and had directed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar to take all measures immediately “whatever are necessary” to ensure recovery of the child.

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