Sex sells, or so the bizarre saying goes. Literally, thousands of women from India, Nepal and Bangladesh are sold every year to customers in the Middle East, and the slave markets and sex-prisons of ISIS fighters in Syria. New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are the transit points for these sex traffickers. In this web of horror, the predators and facilitators even include airlines and immigration officials. Months before the First Secretary of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in New Delhi, Majid Ashoor, and his Saudi friends were exposed for allegedly gangraping and brutally assaulting two Nepalese girls in his Gurgaon house, another 24-year-old Nepalese woman Reema (name changed) was sold to a middleman by her parents in Nepal. Her dismal fate would have dumped her in the international network of human traffickers to be sold in the booming sex slave market of the Middle East. She, along with six other unfortunates, were detained at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on July 27, when they were about to board a flight to Dubai. But the markets have expanded.
As the immigration desks at airports have been alerted about the trafficking, and documents as well as the travellers are verified and scrutinised carefully, sex agents have started sending women and girls first to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Morocco and Bangkok, and from there, have obtained visas for the Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt and Syria. Africa has become the new thriving slave market for these girls with buyers coming from Tanzania and Kenya.
Police investigations into the L’Affaire Majid revealed a bigger network operating, even involving two Air India employees Manish Gupta and Kapil Kumar, who issued boarding passes for flights. In February 2014, Delhi Police and CISF, acting on an Intelligence Bureau alert, rescued 76 Nepalese girls travelling to Dubai from the clutches of traffickers and were repatriated back home. Sources said it is most likely that they would be sold again to the highest bidder because they are promised lucrative jobs abroad, which would help them escape poverty and misery. On September 2, R&AW issued an alert to Delhi Police about Bangladeshi girls being trafficked from New Delhi to Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. “An India-based unidentified contact reached out on August 31 to his Bangladesh-based female associate and informed that he has ‘managed’ the necessary liaisons in New Delhi through which he would be able to obtain visas for Bangladeshi nationals for Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Dubai,” the alert said.
The R&AW note also observed that the price for each girl was `6 lakh. Similar alerts were issued by Central agencies on trafficking of women from Nepal, West Bengal, Jharkhand and the north eastern states of India.
Central agencies had alerted the Delhi Police, Bureau of Immigration and airport officials about the racket. “We receive alerts about women trafficked to the Middle East for sexual exploitation,” said a top senior police officer.
A senior police officer from Nepal is currently visiting Delhi to meet with Indian security agencies with details of girls missing from his country over the past two years, who are suspected to have been sent to the Middle East by Delhi-based traffickers. On September 11, he held meetings with various senior police and intelligence officers.
In May this year, Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau shared information with Indian intelligence agencies that girls and women are being trafficked to Syria and are sold to ISIS terrorists as “sex slaves”. The Nepal government came across the information in April when it busted a group of traffickers, who sold the doomed females for merely `50,000 each to terror organisations in Syria to work in the sex trade.
The Nepal police agencies also said that the women are trafficked through India, especially Delhi. They had nabbed six Nepal-based agents and an Indian trafficker, Tarun Rojan Khanagwal, who hails from Delhi.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Dinesh Gupta told The Sunday Standard that investigation in cases registered at Delhi airport reveals a vast network of traffickers using the airport as transit point.
The Reema case led to further revelations that more Nepalese girls were brought to Delhi and were given accommodation in Mahipalpur. The police conducted a raid on July 25 and arrested two Nepalese agents, Vishnu Tamang and Daya Ram. Twenty-one Nepalese girls and women aged between 20 and 35 were rescued. They were to leave for Dubai.
The arrested Nepalese agents told the police that in the last two months, they had trafficked more than 700 women to Middle East countries for `5,000 per person as commission.
“Delhi and Mumbai have become the transit points for trafficking of Nepalese and Bangladeshi and Indian girls and women,” said a top intelligence official. In Delhi, around 106 women have been rescued so far this year; around 20 percent of them were bound for foreign shores. Last year, police rescued 235 women, while in 2013, the number was 160, including 43 from Nepal. In 2012, a total of 185 women and girls were rescued, of which 42 were from Nepal. But senior cops say the real figure of women being smuggled out for sexual exploitation is much larger. Shockingly, no database is maintained by any of the agencies. So far this year, police have arrested 62 human traffickers, including eight women, from Delhi. Last year, 199 were arrested, including 31 women. In 2013, the figure was much higher with 286 arrests, which included 40 women. The figures clearly suggest that Delhi Police has gone soft on human traffickers in the last two years.
A senior Delhi Police officer said, “It is very tough to detect girls who are more than 18 years old and are being trafficked to Middle East countries, since they leave the country with valid work permits. Only late do they come to know that they will be forced into prostitution or become bonded labourer.” He said that until their family members approach them with complaints, they are unable to know about the victim’s condition and moreover, they come from other states than Delhi.
With time, the traffickers have outsmarted the security agencies. Only novice agents send their prey abroad directly. It is pertinent to note that there is no direct flight to Middle East countries from Kathmandu. The Nepal Government has asked India to allow Nepal citizens to fly to the Middle East only after getting the necessary clearance from Protector of Emigrants.
“Emigration Clearance from the office of Protector of Emigrants is required for 18 countries—the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand, Iraq (emigration banned),” said a senior Delhi Police officer.