Khadija Bibi lost her baby daughter Surmaiya to a burqa-clad kidnapper at Sealdah station early on Tuesday.
The unsuspecting mother, in her early 20s, had handed over her six-month-old girl to the woman who had befriended her and offered to pacify the wailing child.
Before she could realise what was happening, Khadija saw the woman walk away with little Surmaiya and melt into the crowd. She was left clutching on to her one-and-a-half-year-old son.
The mother of two had arrived at Sealdah station from Sangrampur, in South 24-Parganas, en route to her in-laws’ place in Hamidpur, in the Amdanga police station area of North 24-Parganas.
She was waiting for an Amdanga-bound train at platform No. 1, around 6.30am, when the woman in a burqa made her move.
Khadija’s father-in-law, Ahad Bux Mollah, was a little distance away with her son.
“The woman sat beside Khadija and started talking to her. She said little Surmaiya was very sweet and when the child started crying, offered to hold her and walk her to pacify her,” said a Government Railway Police (GRP) officer.
The woman gave Khadija her radio to listen, took Surmaiya in her arms and got up. In a flash, she moved towards the exit gate with the baby. Khadija panicked and gave chase, while calling out to her father-in-law for help.
“Just then, a Kalyani local arrived at the platform. The woman disappeared in the sea of passengers and Khadija Bibi lost sight of the kidnapper and the child,” added the officer.
The Sealdah GRP has started a probe based on the complaint lodged by Khadija’s father-in-law.
“We have started an investigation to find out what exactly happened and whether the identity of the woman can be ascertained,” said Barun Kumar Mullick, the superintendent of GRP (Sealdah).
There have been a few incidents of child-lifting from Tiljala, Topsia and Park Circus, but this is the first instance in recent memory of a kidnapper conning a mother into parting with her child at a public place and then disappearing.
“Khadija Bibi did not get a clear glimpse of the child-lifter as she was in a burqa. There were no clear witnesses, as her father-in-law was some distance away,” said an officer probing the case.
“The modus operandi is quite alarming. Parents of infants must be more alert and not trust a stranger in public places,” he added.