‘Kidnapped at 10, sold as bride’

HINDUSTAN TIMES

A racket of throwing minor girls into flesh trade under the cover of marriage has come to light.

Kidnapped and sold-off to middle-aged men, the girls were married on an on to customers who made deals with Mansa’s Shinder Pal Kaur, a minor, 13, rescued from the woman’s house here on Saturday, has claimed.

A young social worker who spotted the crime on social network website Facebook saved the girl with the help of her mother and the neighbours of suspects Shinder Pal Kaur and her husband, Gurmail Singh of the Home Guards. “The suspects killed two girls and forced three others into prostitution,” the victim has stated. The police tried to hide this in the first-information report.

It wasn’t easy to lodge the case. “Two people abducted a girl from Ludhiana and kept her in the house of Shinder Pal Kaur,” the police wrote in the first-information report on June 30. “The woman saved her and then only kept the minor for three years without going to the police.” Under public pressure now, the police have slapped Sections 366-A (kidnapping, abduction, compelling a woman for marriage) and 363 (kidnapping) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on couple Shinder Pal Kaur and Gurmail Singh.

House of horrors

Navjot Kaur, member of the Guru Kirpa Welfare Organisation, is the social worker who rescued a child from sexual exploitation. “Shinder Pal Kaur didn’t save me, rather she plotted my kidnapping,” the rescued Ludhiana girl told a news channel (HT has the footage) on Saturday. “The suspects killed two girls and forced three others into prostitution. I was thrashed, and for the past three years, forbidden to go near the window.”

Switching homes

From Ludhiana, Shinder Pal Kaur, brought her to Maur town of Bathinda’s district, from where they moved to Joga and now to Mansa a few days ago, the minor has stated. “I am 13, but my captors told me to claim I was 15,” she said. “I heard Shinder Pal Kaur striking a deal for me over telephone for Rs. 10,000. God sent Navjot Kaur over at the right time.”

The one who escaped

A woman, 20, is second victim to have surfaced since the exposé. “I had lost my parents at 13 when Shinder Pal Kaur, on the pretext of giving me shelter, sold me to Harmail Singh of Bappiana village in Mansa district,” she said. “She sold me again to Gurpreet Singh of Dabwali and then again to Harmail Singh. A year ago, I escaped. I gave birth to two children. My son, 6, is from Harmail.”

“The suspects (Shinder Pal Kaur and Gurmail Singh) killed my elder sister, Soni, by giving her drug injections,” said the woman. “They would beat up Soni to force her into flesh trade. I got here on coming to know their dirty secret was out. Once, I had also tried to reach the police, but Shinder Pal Kaur had got me attacked.”

When Navjot Kaur brought the matter to the Mansa Sadar station house officer (SHO), the police took the victim to her parents in Ludhiana, who being poor labourers, agreed not to register a case. The social worker then approached the senior superintendent of police at Mansa, Harpreet Singh, who marked a department inquiry against assistant sub-inspector Labh Singh and additional SHO Rajinder Singh.

Caught on Facebook

“A source on Facebook pointed me to the deal for a minor girl,” said whistleblower Navjot Kaur. “I took my mother to the house of Shinder Pal Kaur and rescued the girl with the help of the woman’s neighbours. We went to the police, who only took the victim to Ludhiana, from where she had been kidnapped three years ago.”

Two days later, the police did agree to lodge a case against Shinderpal Kaur, but wrote in the FIR that she had first saved the girl from kidnappers living in her house and then kept her in. “If this is true,” said Navjot Kaur, “why did Shinder Pal Kaur not inform the police or send the victim to her parents.”

The Mansa SSP accepted no telephone call from the reporter but Sadar SHO Rajinder Singh did agree to speak. “We have laid kidnapping, abduction and other charges against Shinder Pal Kaur and her husband, Gurmail Singh,” said the officer. “The victim, now 13, was kidnapped at the hands of two labourers, and Shinder Pal Kaur saved her, though she did not inform the police. We arrested the kidnappers on June 30.”

A latest scandal in Rohtak town of Haryana had exposed the sexual exploitation of girls in a shelter. There too, caretakers had allegedly sold off children as brides many times over.

HINDUSTAN TIMES

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