HUBBALLI AND BENGALURU: The mystery of the missing schoolgirl of Bengaluru ended on a happy note on Sunday when she was found at the Hubballi railway station.
Puujita (13), studying in Class VIII at National Public School, Bengaluru, had gone missing on August 24 and a complaint had been filed with the Srirampura Police Station. After skipping school, she had boarded a train, leaving her family members worried. According to her parents, she was upset over the low marks she had scored in Mathematics.
Puujita, who had only `600 with her when she left home, used that money to buy a ticket to board Ajmer Express. After reaching Ahmedabad, she bought a set of clothes and started making enquiries to get back to Bengaluru. She then boarded the train to Mumbai and back to Bengaluru.
As search for her intensified, authorities tracked her whereabouts to the Chalukya Express. The railway police were informed, who along with her relatives found her in the sleeper coach of the train in Hubballi. She was found carrying a general ticket from Mumbai to Bengaluru.
After she had gone missing, Manohar Iyer, a family friend, and her father launched a social media campaign, requesting people to find her. The posts had gone viral, resulting in responses from many places, including Mumbai.
Madhukiran S K, Puujita’s father, said he got a call from a person in Mumbai who saw the Facebook post and got in touch with him. He told Madhukiran that he was a co-passenger and had seen a girl travelling in a train bound for Ahmedabad from Bengaluru. From then on, Madhukiran kept in touch with the railway police and traced his daughter’s journey to Hubballi. Gloom turned to joy at Puujita’s residence when they got news that she was traced to Hubballi. Puujita’s parents left for Hubballi on Sunday night to have a happy reunion with their daughter.
Emotions ran high at the residence of 13-year-old Puujita’s residence at Devaiah Park in Bengaluru after news broke that she was found at Hubbali railway station three days since she went missing.
“I am grateful to the social media channels such as Facebook and Whatsapp which helped me find my daughter”, said Madhukiran, father of Puujita.
“I started the search by posting her picture on Facebook. I also created Whatsapp group to communicate any news. At first, I was hesitant to take the Facebook route, but I did not want to leave any stone unturned. Once I created the post, it went viral in no time. It reached across the country overnight. I received calls from various organisations, individuals to confirm if it was a genuine case or a fake one. I kept my cool and attended each and every call.”
“We got a lead from the van driver who last saw her after dropping her off at school,” he said. Madhukiran learnt that Puujita did not enter the school but walked ahead which was caught on the CCTV camera of a hotel nearby.
“Along with my friends, we reached the hotel and watched the clippings second-by-second as she walked past the hotel. I then approached the city Railway Police with a copy of the missing person’s complaint.”
Madhukiran later got a call from a person in Mumbai who saw the Facebook post and got in touch with him. He told Madhukiran that he had seen a girl travelling alone in a train bound for Ahmedabad from Bengaluru. He was her co-passenger on that train and spoke to the girl at length, but had got off at Belagavi and learnt that she had run away from home only on his return to Mumbai.
“I asked him for a detailed description of the girl and it matched that of my daughter’s. I was elated,” Madhukiran said.
He alerted the city police and spread the word about the update he had received. With the help of RPF, he got in touch with Ahmedabad railway station and learnt that a girl had enquired a about a ticket to Bengaluru and could not find vacant seat.
She was advised to take a train to Mumbai and then reach Bengaluru. Puujita reached Dadar station and took the help of a Railway Ticket Collector and boarded Chalukya Express. The RPF got information about the girl and Madhukiran contacted his relatives and friends in Hubballi where the train passes.
“When the train arrived at the station, they searched every corner of the train and found my daughter”, added Madhukiran.
Puujita’s grandfather said, “She was very good in studies. She scored well in all the subjects, but she had trouble with Mathematics.”
Many unknown people helped Puujita, said Vasudeva Murthy, a friend of Madhukiran.
As relatives and well-wishers flooded their residence, Madhukiran continued to get messages and calls every minute from people across the country. “I have got calls from churches and ashrams that devotees are praying for the safe return of Puujita. I received several messages from parents whose children went missing to empathise with me and my wife. After witnessing these, I still believe there is still humanity left in this world,” he said.