Alappuzha: The tale of Abigel Sara Reji of Oyoor in Kollam, the six-year-old girl who was abducted and later found abandoned in a gap of 22 hours, is a tale that ended well.
However, for Mini Raju, the news brings back haunting memories of her own missing son, Rahul, who disappeared nearly two decades ago at the age of seven. While she rejoices in Abigel’s safe return, her own pain remains as she awaits closure for her son’s case.
Rahul’s disappearance became one of the most sensational child abduction cases in the state’s history, with the child remaining untraced since May 18, 2005, when he was last seen playing cricket near their house at Manjapuzha in Poonthoppu ward, Alappuzha.
Mini Raju, with tears in her eyes, expressed her happiness for Abigel’s return but could not help but reflect on her own tragedy. “I am relieved that at least one mother’s tears have been wiped away. I pray that no other child faces the same fate as my Rahul did. I closely followed the vigil, public outcry, media attention, and police investigation that surrounded Abigel’s disappearance. I believe that if such resources had been dedicated to Rahul’s case, he could have been traced. Unfortunately, the probe in his case remained local, and even the CBI’s involvement didn't yield results,” Mini said.
Mini now calls upon the authorities to focus their energy on investigating Abigel’s abduction case thoroughly and exposing the criminal syndicates involved in child abductions. She believes that by busting these syndicates, the safety of children can be ensured.
Rahul’s father, AR Raju, ended his life last year at the age of 55. He had returned from working in the Gulf after Rahul’s disappearance but was plagued by health issues and struggled to find employment, leading to his despair. He had reportedly told the family that he would not live past Rahul’s birthday, a statement that Mini didn't take seriously until his suicide devastated the family.
Currently, Mini works with Consumerfed, a position granted to her by the Oommen Chandy Government, in Alappuzha town. Her daughter, Shivani, who was born after Rahul’s disappearance, is now in Class X.
Mini’s 76-year-old mother, Susheela, also lives with them. She fondly remembers the canal near which Rahul used to play cricket with his friends, which has now been transformed into a road. “They've even named the road after him. Our memories of him are still vivid,” she says, her eyes downcast.