Daring rescue of 21 girls from ‘Kashmir Bazaar’

BY VIJAY SINGH PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NAVI MUMBAI: The Navi Mumbai (zone-1) police recently undertook a secret and daring rescue of 21 girls who were pushed into prostitution at Agra’s notorious ‘Kashmir Bazaar’ red light area. Of the 21 girls rescued, five are from Maharashtra state while the rest are from northern states like UP.

All the girls had been either kidnapped or lured by agents while they were barely adolescents aged between 11 to 14 years, and sold for around Rs 2 lakh to 3 lakh at the various 22 ‘kothas’ (prostitution dens’ at Agra’s Kashmir Bazaar area in the last 10 years.

The entire sex scandal came to light recently when a girl kidnapped from Nerul area in 2007 had urged one of her visiting clients in Agra to look for her family back in Navi Mumbai and she was trapped in this sinister world for eight years.

That client, who reportedly is a local goon-turned-Good Samaritan, went back to Agra along with a few of his cronies and successfully helped the Nerul girl escape from that hellhole, after winning the confidence of the pimps in charge of her.

The entire sex scandal came to light recently when a girl kidnapped from Nerul area in 2007 had urged one of her visiting clients in Agra to look for her family back in Navi Mumbai and she was trapped in this sinister world for eight years.

That client, who reportedly is a local goon-turned-Good Samaritan, went back to Agra along with a few of his cronies and successfully helped the Nerul girl escape from that hellhole, after winning the confidence of the pimps in charge of her.

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The Navi Mumbai police team then planned out the entire rescue operation by first doing a though recce of Kashmir Bazaar in Agra. (TOI photo)

“When the victim girl reached Navi Mumbai, she realized that her father had passed away while her ailing mother and a brother were still around. When she told them how she was kidnapped by some woman who gave her some sleep inducing thing to eat, her family approached Nerul police to inform about the status of this missing case,” informed deputy commissioner of police (zone 1) Shahaji Umap. He added that the Nerul girl further informed that cops that there were several more girls from Maharashtra trapped in the infamous 22 ‘koth

“When the victim girl reached Navi Mumbai, she realized that her father had passed away while her ailing mother and a brother were still around. When she told them how she was kidnapped by some woman who gave her some sleep inducing thing to eat, her family approached Nerul police to inform about the status of this missing case,” informed deputy commissioner of police (zone 1) Shahaji Umap. He added that the Nerul girl further informed that cops that there were several more girls from Maharashtra trapped in the infamous 22 ‘kothas’ of Kashmir Bazaar in Agra.

“The pimps would mainly target those juvenile girls who were either having some family problems or other such personal issues. They would either lure them to come and see Taj Mahal in Agra or promise to get them a job. Some other victims, like this Nerul girl were also forcibly kidnapped by first giving them some food laced with sedatives,” added DCP Umap.

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In the process, the cops also arrested three pimps and a female ‘madam’ from that kotha for running this prostitution den in Agra. (TOI photo)

The Navi Mumbai police team then planned out the entire rescue operation by first doing a though recce of Kashmir Bazaar in Agra.

“That red light area is so congested and dirty, that barely a single cycle can pass through that zone. We had to park our bigger vehicle nearly 1 km away and walk towards the designated ‘kotha’ to rescue more such trapped girls.We had to also take assistance from that area’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) RK Mishra,” recalled one of the officers who was part of this rescue op.

He added that they there were advised to finish the rescues within 13 to 15 minutes of time so as to ensure that there is minimum resistance and physical violence for the mafia elements in this area. “The trapped girls were very happy to be rescued. We had to literally pull them out of tiny window openings made in rooms within rooms inside these smelly and cramped ‘kotha’. One of the girls was so eager to be rescued that she jumped from a height and fractured her leg,” recalled the officer.

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The entire sex scandal came to light recently when a girl kidnapped from Nerul area in 2007 had urged one of her visiting clients in Agra to look for her family back in Navi Mumbai. (TOI photo)

The senior inspector of Nerul police station, Sangita S Alphanso, said that there was great danger to the Navi Mumbai police team that had gone to Kashmir Bazaar for this rescue operation. “That place in Agra is infamously known as the bazaar where a girl walks in but can never return. Some of the other locals here told us that only the cops from Mumbai could have done this operation, as there are armed men guarding each prostitution house or ‘kotha’,” said the official.

In the process, the cops also arrested three pimps and a female ‘madam’ from that kotha for running this prostitution den in Agra. Their names are Puja alias Parveen Imran Khan, Shriman Taman (52), JL Birbahadur (25) and Subhash Chandra alias Pappu Babulal (38).

Congratulating the efforts of the zone-1 police team, DCP Umap said that he will recommend them to his superiors for an award. Some of the team officials include Police Inspector Majage, Assistant Police Inspectors Rajput, Hire, Domb, PSIs Bhosale, Shinde, constable Kedar, Police Naik Kadam, Ithape, Londh, Ubale, Salunkhe, Patil, Bhangare, woman police constables Patil, Godse and Kandalkar.

The cops also stated that there may be more such young girls trapped in Kashmir Bazaar from other parts of the country.

Shinde, constable Kedar, Police Naik Kadam, Ithape, Londh, Ubale, Salunkhe, Patil, Bhangare, woman police constables Patil, Godse and Kandalkar.

The cops also stated that there may be more such young girls trapped in Kashmir Bazaar from other parts of the country.

Battered and bruised, some return, some are never to be seen again..

180777_10150095433357197_5102103_nBy N Sai Published in the DNA News

In the last of the three-part series, dna travels to remote villages of India’s ‘slavery belt’, some of the remotest and backward areas of Jharkhand. Rescued slaves and the parents of those who have never come back reveal what makes these tribals easy targets

Ranchi: The road to Jahupkokotoli village in the Maoist-hit district of Gumla is a contradiction of sorts. As the two-lane road snakes through the forests and rolling hills of the Chottanagpur plateau, bauxite-laden trucks are the only constant reminder of activity here. Yet the public transport to this part of Jharkhand from the state capital Ranchi is rickety. The only bus everyday is as uncertain as life in this extremely backward region of India. Despite the lack of public transport, thousands of tribal boys and girls from Gumla-Khunti-Simdega region, India’s unofficial ‘slavery belt’, are transported and trafficked to upper middle class and rich homes of Delhi. After a period of enslavement and unpaid forced labour, many return battered and bruised. Some are never to be seen again. Some still carry on.

In Jahupkokotoli, an aboriginal hamlet of 160 Oraon tribal families, 45-year-old Mathoo comes running with a picture of his 14-year-old daughter. “Help me find her. I haven’t seen her after she went away in 2007,” says Mathoo. His daughter would be 21 now, but Mathoo doesn’t know her fate after she was taken by a ‘placement agent’ from a neighbouring village to Delhi to work as a domestic help. Within two months, the agent sent Mathoo Rs 1000 as a payment for his daughter’s ‘services’. Next year, he called up the agent again to inquire about his daughter. “The agent said that my daughter had run away and that he did not know her whereabouts. I do not know whether she is dead or alive,” says Mathoo.

A few houses away from Mathoo’s is the hut of Hari Oraon. His 16-year-old daughter Pramila was taken by an agent to Delhi in early 2014. But she ‘escaped’ within four months and came back. According to her statement to police, Pramila was taken to Delhi by another woman of the same village in the promise of a better life. As soon as she arrived in Delhi she was escorted to a Shakurpur-based placement agency by an agent. They took her finger prints on a piece of paper and sent her to work as a domestic maid at three different homes in Delhi. Facing ill-treatment and not having been paid by any of her employers or the placement agency, Pramila escaped. Lost on the streets in Delhi, she begged another woman to take her home. The woman instead handed her over to the Delhi police. The Delhi police handed her over to a shelter home in the capital from where she was taken to Kishori Niketan, a rehab centre for trafficked women in Bijupara, Jharkhand. Finally in April 2014, she was re-united with her family. For her work as a domestic help in Delhi, Pramila wasn’t paid any money. “The police left her in nearby Bishunpur from where we picked her up and got her home,” says Hari Oraon. “She says she will never go back to Delhi.”

Off the road from Bishunpur lies the Dalit village of Hadiya Toli, literally translating into ‘wine village’. There is no road connectivity to the village and reaching here requires walking a kilometre on a dusty track. The name of 15-year-old Sarita alias Budhni evinces a peculiar response from the village men. “That Dilli-return?”, one asks with a wry smile. “Who knows where she is,” says another. “Ask her mother. She might know.” We find her mother working outside her hut and as the conversation about her daughter nears completion, she says, “Who will marry her now? Who knows what might have happened to her in Delhi?”

Sarita disappeared from her house in 2013 with five other girls after an agent in her village promised her lucrative money in Delhi. Sarita says, “I was promised a monthly wage of Rs 5000. After working four months for an agency in Motinagar in Delhi, I asked for some money. They refused and locked me up instead. I begged to let me go home. But they said I cannot go home before I completed five years. Then one day the police raided the place and they took me in their custody,” says Sarita. She was finally sent home in April 2013.

“There were other girls in that house. I do not know what happened to them. I did not even get the money for my work,” says Sarita. When asked about the nature of her work, Sarita maintains an uneasy silence. Sarita is lucky enough to be back in her village. Even though her village doesn’t have either electricity, drinking water supply or roads, she feels safer here than in any of Delhi’s slave holes.

Phulin Murmu, 18, however doesn’t want to return to her village. Phulin Murmu is not a name that would ring a bell. But when she was found burnt, battered and bitten in a house in South Delhi’s posh Vasant Kunj locality it made national headlines in October 2013. She was found in the house of Vandana Dhir, an executive with a French multinational. Murmu’s body bore hot girdle-induced burn marks, deep scars on the head and bite marks all over her body. She was forced to drink urine, prevented from using the bathroom and confined in the house in a semi-naked condition before being rescued. She was working unpaid for two years before being rescued.

DNA tracked her down at a rehabilitation centre in Khunti, one of the hardest hit districts of the slavery belt. She is being educated and trained at the Mahilya Samkhya Society, which she shares with around 30 other minor girls, many of whom are rescued slaves. Phulin can barely write her name, the scars still show on her face. But she details her three years of enslavement with a brave face and with no emotion. “It is for the first time that I am seeing her talk so openly. It seems she is recovering well from the trauma,” says Asha Kusum, the warden of the institution. The Mahilya Samkhya Society is wary of letting Phulin rejoin her parents in her village. They ask her father to come to town for Christmas. They don’t want to take a chance again. “Most kids are from extremely poor tribal families. Their parents will send them to Delhi for any small amount. Phulin is safe here – from poverty and from agents who would want to prey on her again. She is still scared inside. She will only get better,” says Ms Kusum

INDIA’S BRIDE TRAFFICKING FUELLED BY SKEWED SEX RATIOS

A brother from West Bengal district of Dinajpur after a long search was able to rescue his sister who was trafficked for forced Marriage in Uttar Pradesh

A brother from West Bengal district of Dinajpur after a long search was able to rescue his sister who was trafficked for forced Marriage in Uttar Pradesh

PUBLISHED IN THE GUARDIAN-BY ANU ANAND

Business in brides is booming in north-west India as a result of female foeticide, but the women bought and sold are often trapped in lives of slavery and abuse

Just 90 minutes’ drive from the thriving city of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a business hub in Indiaand home to corporate giants Google and Microsoft, Hari Singh Yadav, landowner, farmer and eldest of seven brothers sits outside his front door and bemoans his bachelor status.

“There are not enough girls from my caste in our village, and I’m already 34 years old, so now no one wants to marry me,” he says. Only three of his brothers have found wives. “Here, if you don’t marry, people shun you. I want to go to [the southern city of] Hyderabad and get a wife but it will cost $1,500. Will you loan it to me?”

In the north-west of India, the business in brides is booming. Skewed sex ratios in states including Haryana,where there are only 830 girls for every 1,000 boys(pdf) and young women being lured away to jobs in India’s booming cities, means men like Yadav are increasingly left with few options when it comes to finding a wife.

“Among land-owning castes in rural areas, female foeticide is rampant because people bitterly oppose laws which say girls should inherit equally,” said Reena Kukreja, who teaches gender studies at Queens University in Ontario, Canada. “So they make sure daughters are never born.”

Nearly 50 years after the introduction of ultrasound technology, which campaigners say has led to the sex-selective termination of up to 10 million healthy female foetuses, families in search of wives are increasingly turning to traffickers to counter their sons’ diminishing marriage prospects.

There are no official statistics on trafficked and migrant brides in India, but according to a survey conducted across 1,300 villages in Haryana and Rajasthan by Queens University, there has been a 30% increase over the past three years in the numbers of women lured or coerced into marriage.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has identified organised bride trafficking rings increasingly operating in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, where gender ratios are among the least balanced in the country. A 2013 UNODC report (pdf) cites a survey of 92 villages in Haryana which shows that in 10,000 households, 9,000 married women had been bought from poor villages in other states.

The business of bride trafficking is proving so lucrative that local people are setting themselves up as dealers or brokers, sourcing women for families seeking partners for their sons.

Bashir, who refused to give his surname, is from Tijara in the north-western state of Rajasthan. He used to make his living harvesting crops or quarrying rocks. Now he supplements his meagre income by travelling to Assam twice a year – with his own purchased wife – to bring back brides for local village families.

“We tell them they’ll get good husbands here. We pay the families $70-100 [£45-65],” Bashir says, sitting outside his family home. “It’s a community service. We are poor, they are poor, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Yet the reality of these marriages for women bought and sold as brides is often a life of slavery and abuse. The UNODC says thousands of these women are raped, abused, used as domestic slaves and often eventually abandoned.

Sahiba was only 16 when a distant relative told her family in Assam that he could marry the poor teenager into a good home. He took her away, raped her twice and sold her as a bride to a family in Palwal, Haryana, 60km from the Indian capital Delhi. “I didn’t want to be raped again, so I went along with it,” she says. “And I thought it was a real marriage.”

She later discovered from her sister-in law that she had been bought for 13,500 rupees (£135) for her mentally ill husband, whom the family thought no one else would marry. “My blood began to boil and I decided to escape,” Sahiba says. “When I refused to sleep with my new husband, I was beaten and attacked with a knife. ‘We bought you,’ his family told me. ‘You have to obey.’”

Shafiq ur-Rehman is an activist and founder of Empower People, a charity that works with trafficked brides in 10 Indian states, including Haryana, where his offices have been set on fire and his employees shot at by locals. He says women who are bought and sold into marriage are often used as unpaid labourers. “It’s simple economics,” he says. “A local day labourer costs $140 for a season. But a girl only costs $100 for life. If it doesn’t work out, she can be resold and there’s no family nearby to help her. It’s no different from the former slave plantations of the US.”

Ghaushia Khan, 40, an activist, was sold into marriage in Haryana as a young woman and now provides legal aid to other trafficked brides. She says that, once sold, many women are considered worthless by the community they find themselves in. “In 1992, a [trafficked bride] in my neighbourhood was doused in kerosene and burnt alive,” Khan says. “Her skin began to peel off and I would hear her crying out, ‘please give me water’.”

Khan travels throughout Haryana trying to help these brides get access to legal support and assistance. She says few of the women she encounters are prepared to go to the police because they believe that, far from delivering justice, a complaint will leave them further isolated.

Some women, like Farida, have spent decades in villages far away from their families. Only 11 when, 20 years ago, she was sold to a 70-year-old man, her first experience of marriage was rape and violence. She gave birth to the first of seven children soon after. “That same day, I was ordered to get up and cook for everyone,” says Farida.

What is most painful, she says, is that her children have been taught to hate her. “My eldest son says to his grandmother, ‘Why don’t we sell her on? There are many others like her,’” she says. “What can I do? I don’t think I’ll ever see my sister again. I don’t even remember how to get back home.”

Others, like Sahiba, have managed to escape their marriages. Sahiba’s brother spent months tracking her down with the help of lawyers and activists with the Delhi-based Save the Childhood Movement. However, the chances of Sahiba getting any kind of justice or compensation are slim. Save the Childhood Movement estimates that, despite thousands of women being affected, there have been only two or three convictions a year for bride trafficking.

“There’s a very low conviction rate in cases of bride trafficking because the law is so fragmented,” says Rakesh Senger, an activist with the organisation. “One section deals with kidnapping, another with trafficking, another with rape, so cases usually took up to five years to prosecute. There is no inter-state police cooperation either, so it’s difficult to get victims to court to testify. However, with the new rape laws, we’re hopeful things will improve as cases have to be tried within a year.”

Ravi Kant, president of Shakti Vahini, one of India’s most high-profile anti-trafficking organisations, agrees. He says that, despite successfully bringing cases of forced labour – where they have prosecuted families for buying women from another state and forcing them into domestic servitude – they have persistently failed to bring cases of bride trafficking to court.

“We’ve tried to prosecute traffickers and men who’ve purchased wives in at least 20 different cases,” Kant says. “They stay in jail for two to three months, get bail and then either the prosecutor doesn’t actively pursue the case, or the victim never testifies because she’s afraid to face her tormentor again. The local police don’t see the accused as having committed any crime, so they don’t investigate properly, and they make no effort to cross state lines to bring victims to court.”

Sahiba’s future remains uncertain. She says that although she has been rescued, the end of her marriage means she can’t go home to her family. “I can’t go back because of the shame of leaving a husband,” she says.

Global human trafficking racket busted in Hyderabad

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

HYDERABAD: Police, on Sunday, busted an international human trafficking racket and rescued two women from Barkas in Old City. Two persons were arrested. The two victims rescued by Chandrayangutta police, were reportedly sexually exploited by their employers from Abu Dhabi, who also made them clean toilets with bare hands and cut tons of onions as a form of soft punishment.

The arrested have been identified as Imtiyaz, 35, and his mother Fatima, while the victims were a 29-year-old housewife from Barkas and her 32-year-old cousin from Rakshapuram Colony. Both the women have two children each and the income earned by their alcoholic husbands was not sufficient to run the family, South Zone DCP V Satyanarayana said.

As the women were looking for means to support their families, Fatima approached them with a job offer in Abu Dhabi. She told them that through her son Imtiyaz, who had provided employment to scores of people from Old city in Gulf countries, she could find them lucrative jobs as domestic helps in Abu Dhabi for a paltry down payment and a monthly commission in the earnings.

“The victims who believed Fatima borrowed money at a high interest and paid her Rs 1 lakh each to go to Abu Dhabhi. Fatima told them that they will be able to send home Rs 30,000 per month,” Chandrayangutta additional inspector S Raghavendra said.

On November 11, the two women boarded a flight at RGIA and reached Abu Dhabi, where they were received by their employer. After they started working, within no time the two women realised that they had to do a lot more than performing the traditional duties of a domestic help. “The women were sexually exploited not just by their employer, but even by his guests in a brutal manner. The victims were beaten up when they resisted,” Raghavendra added.

Apart from this abuse, the employer used to make the victims clean toilets, including commodes, with bare hands. “Unable to bear the humiliation, when we finally mustered courage and protested saying that we came to Abu Dhabhi to do household work, the employer made us cut sacks of onions continuously as punishment,” one of the victims told police.

Unable to bear the torture, the 32-year-old woman fell ill and had to be hospitalised. She was then sent back to Hyderabad by the employer on December 1. After reaching the city, she approached police and narrated the horrid tale. Cops immediately swung into action and picked up Imtiyaz. Through him, they managed to convince the employer in Abu Dhabhi to send the second victim to Hyderabad on Sunday. “We have recorded the statements of both victims on Sunday and arrested the brokers under Sections 420, 384 of IPC and relevant sections of PITA,” the DCP said.

Child trafficking: Delhi cops not cooperating in raids

1888877_10152716836809123_6359657859865378037_oPUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh police team, which is in New Delhi to crackdown on trafficking racket, has accused Delhi police of not cooperating with further investigation to find the main accused involved in trafficking of children.

State police, in a series of raids, had busted a racket on Wednesday arresting four accused and rescued ten children including girls in Delhi. According to police officials, Delhi police barred Chhattisgarh police team when it wanted to raid the house of Guddu- the kingpin of trafficking, who is at large.

“Guddu’s house is located in Delhi’s Subhash Nagar police jurisdiction. But when the SHO Ram Mehar was contacted for cooperation in raiding the house, he denied saying that police from other state couldn’t do such investigation and in case they violated rules, he would take action against them,” an official on condition of anonymity said.

The official added that the team was asked to take permission from sub-divisional magistrate for conducting raids. In its investigation, TOI found that police teams from Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam were trying to reach Subhash Nagar in search of Guddu who was the main accused for trafficking of over 10,000 children. But Subhash Nagar police weren’t co-operating.

According to Ravi Kant, a supreme court lawyer, “Any investigating officer asking support from inter state police at their jurisdiction cannot be denied assistance. Any resistance should be strictly taken into consideration by ministry of home affairs.”

After Supreme Court order, Chhattisgarh cops form special teams to trace missing children

2014_10image_13_13_483818000humantrafficking-ll

RASHMI DROLIA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

RAIPUR: With Supreme Court directing Chhattisgarh government to trace missing children within a month, state police rushed to form special teams to find trafficked children from different parts of country.

On November 13, the apex court had summoned Madhya Pradesh chief secretary for failing in finding missing kids and ordered Bihar and Chhattisgarh government to trace children who went missing between January 2011 and May 2014.

According to police, there are nearly 1,500 children including girls who went missing during this tenure.

TOI has consistently reported on huge number of children going missing everyday from state capital and other parts of Chhattisgarh for domestic slavery, flesh trade, begging, forced marriages and slavery. Appalling variations were also found in data produced under Right to Information Act with number of missing children from various departments including police headquarters, district crime records bureau and CID.

In its several investigations, TOI found that Chhattisgarh lacks missing children squad or active child tracking system which is supposed to act swiftly once a child goes missing.

Talking to TOI, officer on special duty, CID (child cell) PN Tiwari said special teams were being formed at police station level and SPs in all districts have been pressed into action to do 100% verification and identification of missing children.

“Finding out if the children were kidnapped, trafficked, pushed into begging or prostitution is the primary job in order to trace them. SPs and their special teams are trying to figure out their location by interrogating their parents,” Tiwari said.

Official sources said that amid all the uproar after Supreme Court’s order and Global Slavery Index report, police teams from Farsabahar in Jashpur were sent to New Delhi to trace 10 children who were allegedly trafficked for domestic slavery by placement agencies.

Police may catch a few traffickers after raiding placement agencies in Delhi.

“Across India’s population of over 1.2 billion people, all forms of modern slavery, including inter-generational bonded labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced marriage, exist. Evidence suggests that members of lower strata mainly women and children being recruited with promises of non-existent jobs and later sold for sexual exploitation, or forced into sham marriages. Recent reports suggest that one child goes missing every eight minutes; it is feared that some are sold into forced begging, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation,” the Global Slavery Index report said.

When contacted, Rishikant of Delhi based NGO Shakti Vahini which has been working with Chhattisgarh police for rescuing children, said, “It should come forth as a joint effort from locals and citizens who need to update police with any minor information they have which would help in finding untraced children.”

Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions on a PIL filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan alleging that over 1.7 lakh children have gone missing in the country between January 2008-2010, many of whom were kidnapped for trafficking in flesh trade and child labour.

Kept as sex slave in Gujarat, Jabalpur woman wriggles out of hellhole

TIMES OF INDIA

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh police arrested a couple who sold a woman in Gujarat where she was kept as a sex slave. Accused Ritesh Barman and wife Mona, are residents of Gorakhpur area in Jabalpur district. They confessed to having sold the 35-year-old woman to one ‘Popet Bhai’ in Gujarat for Rs 1.25 lakh.

Popet sold her to a Patel family in Junagarh for Rs 1.80 lakh. She was kept hostage and repeatedly raped, besides being forced to work as bonded labour. She wriggled out of their clutches and reached Jabalpur on October 23.

On October 29, when two people came to Jabalpur and tried to kidnap her, she went to the police and narrated her ordeal. The rape survivor alleged she was raped by one Bhawan Patel, Vallabh Patel and other members of the family.

Police said, she was a mother of two and was working as a domestic help in Jabalpur. The Barman couple took her to Gujarat, promising better pay. During interrogation, police found more girls had been trafficked from the state and sold in Gurajat by Popet Bhai. Teams have been dispatched to Gujarat to arrest him. A case has been lodged against five people, including Popet.