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Stolen Children

By Rory Callinan/Chennai
Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

YEARS OF HEARTBREAK: Zabeen's birth mother Fatima at a local tea shop; her daughter was taken as she played outside.

Fatima thinks it was her daughter Zabeen's beautiful smile that attracted the child stealer. Playing outside the tea shop near their home in the north Chennai suburb of Washermanpet, with only her four-year-old brother watching, the bright two-year-old was an easy target. While Fatima popped around the corner to the market, Zabeen was bundled into a motorized rickshaw and vanished into the mass of humanity that swirls through the city's squalid alleyways and slums.

"I thought someone had taken her for her kidney," says the weeping mother, clutching a photocopy of her daughter's picture that she keeps in a special place in her tiny two-room flat. "Many, many places I looked. My husband traveled everywhere looking. I was all the time crying for my daughter." Her husband says: "My wife was half mad with grief." ....

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