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A few months ago, five-year-old Arshad left his home in Muzaffarnagar to visit his Dadi, carrying nothing with him but the eagerness and impulsiveness of his years. Not once did it cross his mind that Dadi lived all the way in Dehradun, much further than his little legs could possibly carry him.

On 8 May, he was found by police in Roorkee, lost and too stunned to say anything other than that he was from Dehradun. The counsellor at the government children’s home he was admitted to took about a month to establish a rapport that encouraged Arshad to feel safe enough to reveal his name and those of his family members. He also said his home was near a naala (drain) and that his grandfather cooked at weddings. Thanks to friends he never knew he had, the second clue, while slim, turned out to be the one that took Arshad home.

The hunt began with the District Probation Officer in Dehradun instructing the police to investigate whether any family that lived alongside a naala had reported a missing child. No luck. The District Magistrate ordered a missing person ad with Arshad’s picture to be placed in the local newspapers. No response.

Finally, the District Probation Officer, Meena Bisht, with whom we’ve collaborated in the past, approached our Legal Officer Rizwan Ali for assistance. With her permission, Rizwan and our COO Sumita Nanda drafted a Whatsapp message with Arshad’s photo and Rizwan’s phone number.

Six Degrees of Separation: Arshad Returns Home After Six Months

Rizwan rode across the city, sharing the message with food hawkers, and a request that they circulate it among their friends and networks of cooks. Our team also spread the word in their private and professional networks, asking everyone to amplify the message, particularly among cooks who catered to large events.

Among those who received the message was Rizwan’s friend, Advocate Ehtesham Ansari, through whom it reached Nazir, a cook who catered to weddings in his family. Nazir shared it in his network, which included other cooks.

Six Degrees of Separation: Arshad Returns Home After Six Months

The family was traced in less than 24 hours of putting out the word and reunited shortly after by the Child Welfare Committee.

Six Degrees of Separation: Arshad Returns Home After Six Months

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