In January 2013, Pooja Gaut was seven years old when she was reported missing outside her school in Mumbai, India. Nine years later, the girl was reunited with her family when she managed to escape from the house where she was abducted with the help of a babysitter.
January 22, 2013 would have been another ordinary day in the life of a seven-year-old, but it turned out to be a nightmare. Pooja Gaut was outside school with her elder brother when they got into a bit of an argument when the boy, who was already late for classes, walked in and left the girl at the door of the school in the Maharashtra state capital. After some time, a couple arrives and promises to give Pooja ice-cream, which is how they take the girl in a car to kidnap her. First, it was transported to Goa and later to Karnataka in western and southern India respectively. During the trip, the couple threatened to beat the child if he cried or showed off.
In the early days, Pooja still attended school, but everything changed after the couple had a child. They moved to Mumbai, where Gaut lived with her family before she was abducted and the girl was deprived of education and enslaved by the kidnappers and her son. “They beat me with a belt, kicked me, punched me. Once they beat me so hard with a rolling stick that my back bled. I was also forced to do housework and work for 12 to 24 hours a day,” Pooja, now 16, told the BBC.
Nine years later, Pooja, who has no cell phone, is always seen and has no money to even make a single call, as kidnappers take advantage of her sleep to take the cell phone and search her name on YouTube. He soon saw posters with missing persons reports and phone numbers. In shock and fear, the girl was ready to run, but it took her another seven months to gather the courage to ask Pramila Devendra, the housekeeper who took Pooja, who was the couple’s babysitter. Son kidnaps her for help.
Pramila agrees to help her and calls one of the numbers on the poster. He attended Pooja’s mother’s house next door and contacted the mother and daughter. Both spoke through video call and arranged a meeting. “All my doubts ended there. I knew I had found my daughter, especially after seeing the girl’s birthmark,” said Poonam Gaut, her mother.
Shortly after the encounter, Pooja went with Pramila to file a police report. “I told them everything, even where my kidnappers lived.” The kidnappers are now identified as Harry and Sonny D’Souza, who justified the kidnapping by saying they had not been able to parent until then. The man, accused of kidnapping, threats, physical violence and disregarding child labor laws, has already been arrested, but authorities have yet to explain the reasons for the woman’s release.
And so, on August 4th, a much-desired reunion with the entire family took place. Or unfortunately almost everyone, Pooja’s father died of cancer a few months ago. “I had given up hope of finding my daughter, but luckily, God helped me. I couldn’t be happier,” Poonam said. Amma, who sells food at the railway station to support her three children, does not hide that the days are not easy, but everything changes when she sees Pooja, who has already promised to help her mother and loves to study. . “If I don’t work one day, the next day I don’t have money for food. It takes a lot of strength, but luckily everything changes when I see my little girl who has already appeared,” he concluded.