Amaresh Chaturbedy with son Ankit on Tuesday (in picture by Mayukh Sengupta); (right) a picture of Ankit from 2008 that his father had posted on Facebook
A father who didn’t have an email account until 2010 learnt to leverage the power of social media and trawled Facebook for almost three years to find information that helped police trace his long-lost son to Amritsar.
Ankit Chaturbedy, 21, returned to his Calcutta home on Tuesday evening after six years following a search based on information provided by the Facebook headquarters about the Internet Protocol (IP) address and phone number from which he had written to his father Amaresh: “I will come back.”
Ankit was 15 and a student of Class X at Calcutta Public School in Baguiati when he fled home on September 27, 2008.
“I had almost given up hope of getting my only child back. When I met him, I didn’t ask any questions, I just hugged him tight. He said he was sorry to have left me and started crying. It was the happiest day of my life,” 52-year-old Amaresh, a sales tax lawyer, told Metro.
Amaresh was reunited with his son last Friday at an address on Chamrang Road in Amritsar, where he had gone along with a team from the Bidhannagar police commissionerate.
According to the police, Ankit had been living in a rented house there and was employed as a store manager with an FMCG distributor. In between leaving home and deciding to stay in Amritsar, he had spent a few months in Cuttack, Odisha.
In Amritsar, Ankit had slept on the floor of the Golden Temple and depended on a langar (community kitchen) for food. A stranger later offered him a job at a store.
Father Amaresh said he had tried everything from lodging multiple missing diaries with the police to publishing newspaper appeals and pasting posters on buses and trains to trace his son.
In 2011, a colleague of the sales tax lawyer started a Facebook campaign and asked him to join in. “I opened an account in September 2011 and posted a 2008 photograph of Ankit, asking Facebook users to call if they spotted him anywhere,” Amaresh recalled.
As the number of Facebook “shares” rose, Ankit, who had an account under the fake name of “Vulgar Gamma”, spotted his father’s appeal one day. The post contained Amaresh’s photograph and a message pleading with his son to come back home, saying he was sick and there was nobody else to perform his last rites if he died.
The post moved Ankit to leave his four-word message on his father’s profile. That was on March 3, 2014.
Amaresh found the message on May 4. He immediately responded with a string of messages that Ankit didn’t reply to. He then approached Baguiati police station.
The cyber crime cell of the Bidhannagar commissionerate sent a mail to the legal investigation cell at Facebook’s headquarters, seeking details about the youth and the IP address from which the post had been made. “They (Facebook) didn’t send us a specific reply after the first mail,” said Ritu Dhar, additional deputy commissioner of the detective department at the Bidhannagar commissionerate.
Dhar sent a second email, this time scanning it on her letterhead with her official seal and signature. The IP address landed in her inbox three days later.
Ankit said he had always missed his parents Amaresh and Madhuri. “I wished to come back but since I had fled home and brought shame to my family, I didn’t have the courage to come back on my own.”