Bengali-speaking girls being trafficked to Kutch district of Gujarat

Map of Gujarat showing the Greater Rann of Kut...

Map of Gujarat showing the Greater Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Hundreds of Bengali-speaking Muslim women are being trafficked from Bengal and Bangladesh to Kutch, where they are sold off as brides helped by the district ’s skewed sex ratio and unmarried men’s desperate hunt for wives. A large number of these women are even pushed into flesh trade. Across villages inside huts of local fishermen, one comes across Bengali Muslim girls who have been married into Kutch families.

At Baroi village, we meet a heavily pregnant Asma, who appears to be in her late teens. The mother of two says she is from Dubra in Purulia district, West Bengal. Asma, who speaks a Bengali dialect popular in Bangladesh, is married to Abdul, who insists her age is 24. “I brought her from Kolkata 11 years ago,” he claims, as he abuses Asma for daring to agree with this reporter on her age being around 19 years. It emerges Asma is not the only girl Abdul has brought to Kutch from Bengal. Villagers say Abdul has spent a good time behind bars for trafficking.

“He brings women from Kolkata and marries them off here, charging between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 50,000,” says Meghiben, a community worker. Two more women Mail Today comes across also claim, in Bangladeshi dialect, to be from Dubra village. In nearby Shekhadia village, we run into Pyarun Khatun, who admits to being from Bangladesh. After eight years in Kutch where she rarely gets a chance to speak in her mother tongue, she admits to having difficulty in speaking Bangla. Sitting near Pyarun, Ranobai Gadvi, another community worker, says that the change in the demographic profile has started impacting the otherwise liberal Kutchi fishing community.

“Two things have changed,” she says. “Women never used to wear burqa earlier but now that is being introduced. The attitude towards women is also changing,” she adds.

In Bhadreshwar village, we meet fisherman Osman Abdulla. When he is not catching fish in the high seas, he travels to Bihar scouting for potential brides for men back home. “I have been bringing girls from Jamui district in Bihar for some time,” he says. “But I insist on valid papers establishing the age of the girl and her nationality, which help us later to get her election identity cards,” Abdulla adds.

Abdul, Asma’s husband, has spent time behind bars for trafficking girls.

Reena Rabari of Ujas Mahila Sangathan says the number of Bengali-speaking Muslim women being trafficked into coastal areas of Kutch was quite significant. “A number of these girls are Bangladeshi and we had some cases where these girls came to us seeking help and even admitted they were from the other side of the border,” she says. Meena Rajgore of Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan Bhuj agrees.

“You can come across such girls in Anjar, Gandhidham, Bhachau, Mundra and Bhuj. A rough estimate would put the number of these Bangladeshi girls in Kutch close to 2,000,” she adds. Further, she points out that it is not just the fishing community but even other communities, including the Patels among the Hindus in Kutch, are now increasingly buying brides from trafficking agents. For the authorities, the biggest challenge is in detecting the alleged Bangladeshi women as their nationality is shown as ‘Indian’ on government papers.

“Even if we suspect them to be Bangladeshis, we can do nothing as they hold valid Indian papers,” a senior police officer said. Superintendent of Police(Kutch) B. S. Ahire, however, admits to the presence of Bangladeshi women in the border district. “We are aware of the problem,” he says.


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