How Mumbai-based SRF helped missing Bangladeshi schizophrenic patient reunite with family after 21 years

In 2019, Moti was found wandering in Karjat City, Maharashtra by Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation. He was unable to speak coherently and was not very friendly

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  19 July 2023 5:28 AM GMT
How Mumbai-based SRF helped missing Bangladeshi schizophrenic patient reunite with family after 21 years

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Mumbai: A mentally ill person who went missing from his home in Bangladesh in 2002 was found wandering in India. Md Rahman alias Moti is now on his way home to reunite with his family almost after 21 years.

Hailing from Thakurgaon district of Bangladesh, Moti is suffering from chronic schizophrenia. He was found by the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation (SRF), the only registered NGO in India, run by professional psychiatrists, dealing with the cause of the wandering mentally ill destitute since 1988.

In 2019, Moti was found wandering in Karjat City, Maharashtra. He was unable to speak coherently and was not very friendly. Speaking in Bengali, Moti sometimes would lapse into a different dialect of Bengali which is spoken in the regions on the border of West Bengal.

Sheltered for two years during Covid

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and he was sheltered in the NGO for two years. However, things changed slowly.

A 75-day cycle rally beginning from Ahmednagar to Gandhi Ashram at Noakhali in Bangladesh was held to celebrate the 50 years of independence of Bangladesh by Girish Kulkarni of Snehalaya NGO.

He invited some dignitaries of Bangladesh to Ahmednagar to felicitate them on August 15, 2022. The event was also attended by the NGO's Bengali social worker Nitish Sharma.

"It was during the felicitation program that Nitish broached the topic of Moti and enquired from the Bangladeshi student volunteers and the media accompanying the troupe as to whether they could help out and ascertain from which area he was. In a detailed interview with Moti, the student volunteers found that Moti belonged to Bangladesh, and they took all his details to trace out the relatives," said Dr. Bharat Vatwani, Founder Trustee.

Father's wait since 2002

After a few weeks, Bangladeshi students traced out the family of Moti. His real name is Md Rahman, and he belongs to Thakurgaon district of Bangladesh. He has been missing from his home since 2002. His father also lodged a police complaint at his town police station.

After multiple video calls with his relatives, the relationship between Moti and his family was established. Moti's father disclosed that his son had a history of mental illness before he disappeared from his home. Unfortunately, Moti did not receive treatment for his illness back home.

According to Dr. Bharat Vatwani, Md Rahman has chronic schizophrenia, as he would even now relapse into catatonic silence or self-talking and grimacing and never seemed 100% recovered.

Obstacles during the reuniting journey

In the months that followed, Moti's father, who was an ex-army man, started following up with the Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh, Mumbai, and shared all the requisite Official Identity Documents of both his son Md Rahman and himself via email to the NGO.

Bangladesh Deputy High Commission proactively called the NGO and asked them to send an official request letter with all the necessary attachments, which they duly sent.

In June, Moti was issued a travel permit allowing him to enter Bangladesh. The NGO, along with an escort, sent him to Bangladesh.

While his father was waiting for his son's arrival and to celebrate Eid with him, the officials at Phulbari Indo-Bangladesh Border raised the technical issue of the Exit Permit, stating that it was a mandatory requirement, given that Md Rahman did not have a valid passport. He has to obtain it from the FRRO Office in Mumbai.

On his way home

On July 3, the NGO put up the case in front of Bhupesh

Bawankar, the Assistant Foreigners Regional Registration Officer in the FRRO Office.

"Got moved by the whole story of Md Rahman, he requested his guide us in filling out the Online Application Form for the Exit Permit. Though the routine procedural time for sanction and approval was two weeks, the officer issued it on the next day itself," said Dr. Bharat Vatwani.

After police clearance from Officer Superintendent of Police & FRO, Raigad-Alibag Somnath Gharge, Md Rahman alias Moti is on his way to his home.

He will likely cross the border on July 21 and reunite with his family in the Thakurgaon District of Bangladesh.

Not just one case

According to the NGO, this is not an isolated instance of Bangladeshi mentally ill nationals having wandered across the border. There must be many Indians, too, who must have wandered across the border into Bangladesh (and perhaps even Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Pakistan).

They opined that all these human beings, whether sheltered in NGOs or government mental health institutions in any country, have to be sensitive to such cases. They have ended up because of mental illness. Their families must be pining for their return to their respective countries.

After hearing the story of Moti, the foundation received an email from the brother of a Bangladeshi citizen suffering from mental illness, and missing from Bangladesh since January 2017, requesting to help out in the search for his brother, who may be in India.

About Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation

Since its inception, over 10000 mentally-ill roadside destitute have been assisted off the roads, treated, and successfully reunited with their families in far-flung villages of States such as Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Kerala, Orissa, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, and Nepal.

In appreciation of their work, the NGO received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2018.

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