Heart of Darkness – Times of India

A STRONG EDITORIAL  BY THE TIMES OF INDIA

The crime is shocking enough – 50-year-old tribal woman Imarti Bai shot dead before her family in Betul, Madhya Pradesh, reportedly by the man who raped her 15-year-old daughter. Before her murder, Imarti repeatedly registered requests for protection with the authorities against the alleged rapist, known locally for land-grabbing and money-lending. Yet, she was brutally eliminated, a crime that only grows darker when you lift the lid off it. On February 10, Imarti’s daughter – a class eight student – was allegedly kidnapped by local gangster Rajesh Harore and raped. She was apparently specifically targeted as she refused to join a prostitution racket. In 2006, Imarti’s elder daughter had been kidnapped and sold into prostitution, allegedly by the same gang. Knowing this, Imarti was terrified her younger daughter would also be abducted. She registered a police complaint, seeking protection against Harore – who’d apparently already approached the ward’s councillor brazenly enquiring if the police could be pressured into dropping the complaint. But instead of aiding Imarti immediately, cops told the poor tribal to go to another police station. And another. Until she was killed. Even three days before her murder, Imarti approached the district collector with a written plea for protection. This was forwarded to the superintendent of police – but nothing happened as Imarti died unprotected. The episode is a black mark besmirching Shivraj Singh Chouhan‘s admi-nistration in MP. Why wasn’t Harore apprehended? Why did the police treat this case with such a callously laidback attitude? Why didn’t any administrative department protect Imarti’s family, despite evidence of extreme suffering at the hands of criminals? Does the rule of law exist at all for tribals?

The answers are appalling. India‘s estimated to have a prostitution network of over 10 million women, 20% of them minors, mostly trafficked. Appa-rently, over 90% of the human trafficking occurring in India happens within the country, not across its borders. Forcing the vulnerable thus into various kinds of slavery, including prostitution and mandatory labour, enriches cri-minals, routinely hand-in-glove with administrations that look the other way when the vulnerable are abducted, raped and silenced – or killed when they speak up, like Imarti did. Despite having signed a UN Protocol in 2002 to prevent and punish trafficking, especially in women and children, India only ratified this in 2011. And we still await its implementation. Why? The answer lies in the heart of darkness and criminal systems places like Betul fall within.

HEART OF DARKNESS

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