An infant from Kerala's Palakkad district was brought back to the state on Saturday morning, almost a month since her parents allegedly sold her off in a neighboring state for a sum of Rs 1,10,000.
As the Kerala police went in search of the newborn baby girl to Tamil Nadu, where her parents allegedly sold her, little did they expect that it would lead to busting a huge baby-selling racket.
Bindu, a native of Kanissery in Palakkad gave birth to her fifth child, a girl, on December 25, 2017, at the district hospital. Bindu left with her husband Raja and their five children to Pollachi two days after the delivery.
When the couple returned from Raja's house in Pollachi after spending more than a week with his mother Viji, they returned without the newborn baby girl. Word soon spread that Bindu had returned home to Palakkad without her infant.
Speaking to TNM, Daivini who works as a teacher at the nearby Anganwadi recounts how she confronted the couple about their "missing" infant.
"People were saying that Bindu might have sold off the baby and I went to their house along with the helper at the anganwadi. When we questioned Bindu, she insisted that she left the baby in the care of her mother-in-law in Pollachi. She told the same to her own parents living next door. But we were suspicious about her claim and persisted," Daivini says.
However, being a hot-tempered man that he is, Raja got defensive and began to argue with them, Daivini says.
"Raja told us that he will do whatever he wants with his child. After all, its his baby and not ours, he argued, and said that he will sell her if he deems fit," she says.
She believes that Raja had threatened Bindu into hiding the matter from everyone, since he allegedly kept warning Bindu that he will not provide for her and the kids if she opens her mouth.
On a hunt for the baby
The anganwadi staff alerted the Childline and the police, who took the couple into custody for questioning last week. On the basis of their statements, a team of Kerala police went to Pollachi to question Raja's mother Viji.
According to Bindu's statements, Viji was instrumental in selling off the baby, claiming that her son do not have the money to raise another child. The search for the baby led the Kerala police to Pollachi and then to Erode.
"Raja's mother Viji confessed that she gave the baby to one Sumathy, who in turn gave the baby to Janardhanan. Both Sumathy and Janardhanan are agents. This is a huge, organised racket," Alathur SI Aneesh, who led the investigation told TNM.
Laying the trap
News of Sumathy's arrest might have tipped off Janardhanan, the police say.
In an attempt to catch him red-handed, the police, with the help of TN police, reached out to Janardhanan claiming to be "customers."
"We called him up yesterday (Friday) morning posing as customers, but he didn't speak to us freely. Later, we called him up as police officials and asked him to come to a specified location with the baby. By then he understood that he could no longer escape and came with the baby. We believe Janardhanan had sold off the baby to a family and had taken her back after we called him up," the SI says.
The baby and Janardhanan were brought to Palakkad on Saturday morning.
All the five accused- Bindu, Raja, Raja's mother Viji, Sumathy and Janardhanan have been charged with sections 370, 317 of IPC, section 80, 81 of Juvenile Justice Act and were remanded to judicial custody.
The infant, meanwhile, have been shifted to a state home. While the police say that the infant is safe, they believe that nabbing Janardhanan would help in busting the racket.