She was christened
Sarika in her new abode, a brothel in GB road in New Delhi. Ela Sangma
of Nigam Garo basti in Bhalukpong in Arunachal Pradesh was only 11 when
life took a cruel turn. One fine day, the eldest of six siblings, Ela
saw her mother negotiating a deal with a stranger after she came
back from school. The man, one Praveen Pandit from New Delhi, had come
to their village to look for a maid. Despite her repeated pleas,
her mother insisted that she should go with the man to work in his house
as a maid. After a long train journey, they landed in New Delhi where
she was lodged in the man’s house. After a few days, she was taken
to a brothel in the GB road area in New Delhi.
Photo Anu Boro
At the Tesigong bus
park in Myanmar, the army found blood oozing from a gunny bag
when they pierced it with an iron rod.
It was a child being taken
to China to be sold
“I had refused
to give in and I was thrashed badly for that. I was asked to wear a
skimpy dress and attend to the needs of the clients. On my repeated
refusal, one day I was raped by one of the customers,” she narrates
her tale without batting an eyelid. There was a cold look in the teenager’s
eyes as she gave an account of how she also acted as a pimp in the area
for two years when she finally landed in a women’s home. She is
now a crusader with extraordinary grit and determination. She’s
now associated with Impulse NGO Network (ignon), an NGO based in Shillong,
Meghalaya. Ela, a survivor, is now travelling all over to tell her story.
“Girls like us also have the right to lead a normal life and be
accepted in society. The society and police in particular can do a lot
to check the problem of human trafficking,” she said.
children and women is a complex phenomenon interwoven with many issues.
Hasina Kharbhih, president of ignon and vice-chairperson of Meghalaya
State Commission for Women said that recently their NGO had recovered
four young girls from Mumbai, who were actually from Meghalaya and Assam
and were conned by agents who promised them good modelling assignments.
is quite serious with sly operators flooding the Northeast hunting for
young girls on the pretext of modelling assignments and plum jobs. But
the fact is that many of these girls were forced into prostitution,”
said kharbhih. She added that most of the times, these girls were mistaken
to be from Nepal because of their mongoloid features. Few understand
their mother tongue and therefore can’t recognise them as being
from the Northeast.
IGP, CID, and nodal officer, anti-trafficking, Assam said that trafficking
is increasing in the Northeast and the instances of Assamese girls being
rescued from brothels in Siliguri, Mumbai, New Delhi and Haryana were
registered. He pointed out that there are no proper statistics available
with the police and there are no organised red light-areas in the region.
“The statistics belie the actual happenings, only 22 cases of
human trafficking were registered in Assam in the last five years with
42 arrests,” he said.
A comparative study
of crime figures in Assam regarding cases registered under Immoral Trafficking
(Prevention) Act, 1956 reveals that it reflected a mixed trend. There
was an increase in the number of cases in 2002, in comparison to those
in the year 2001, but there was a decreasing trend in 2005 as compared
to 2004. In 2005, there were 268 recorded cases of missing adult females
and 319 female children from Assam. “We could trace 78 missing adults
and 118 children in 2004. But these traced cases may be of an earlier
date,” said Bhuyan.
All the district
superintendents of police in Assam have been asked to keep strict vigil
in the railway stations and bus stops to detect girls who may run away
from their home and who are vulnerable to induction into the flesh trade
by touts. “Stern legal action will be taken against any such racketeers.
We also keep contacts with the village headmen and the village defence
parties to keep track of missing children and women,” said Bhuyan.
The Meghalaya model
in “combating child trafficking through networking in Northeast
India” which evolved after Impulse NGO Network conducted a need
assessment study to understand the basic issue that needs intervention
needs to be replicated in rest of the Northeast. The assessment was
shared at the state, regional and national level meetings to be able
to emanate the idea of strategic planning. In the process, Impulse
NGO Network was elected as Meghalaya convener of action against trafficking
and sexual exploitation of children.
the process of letters, campaigns through emails and advocacy with law
enforcements, government departments, NGOs, media to work as collective
partners in combating trafficking. We also conducted trainings with
different stakeholders to strengthen capacity building, especially with
the law enforcing authorities,” said Kharbhih.
The region being
a conflict zone and its complex geographical location makes it more
prone to trafficking. “Due to poverty and ignorance, parents are
willing to send their children anywhere for a job to support the family,”
A. Romen Kumar,
IG nodal officer, anti-trafficking of 1st Manipur battalion said, “Manipur
police is more into fighting militancy rather than fighting social evils,
hence it shows a lack of awareness on the rules and regulations of trafficking
issue. Trafficking of drugs, arms and human beings is an organised crime.
There has to be a healthy interaction between the public and the law
Citing an instance
of cross-border trafficking, Sobita Mangsatbam, secretary, Women Action
for Development, said that a bus going from Moreh in Manipur to Mandley
was checked at the Tesigong bus park in Myanmar by the Myanmarese army.
The army found a child in a gunny bag. The army personnel found blood
oozing out from the gunny bag when they were piercing it with a pointed
iron rod. It was suspected that they were taking the child to sell in
China. Moreh, in Manipur, which is on the Indo-Myanmar border, is a transit
point for cross-border trafficking.
chairperson of Tripura State Women Commission stressed that the incidence
of human trafficking is very high in Tripura. “We need the cooperation
of NGOs and enforcement authorities in handling trafficking as a need
based initiative,” she said. The Voluntary Health Association
of Tripura (VHAT) had conducted a survey on the real problem of trafficking
which revealed that 40 percent of the girls marry before the age of
18 and 25 percent get married to older men. 47 percent of the marriages
were arranged by middlemen and 32 percent were men from Haryana and
Punjab. According to reports, every year hundreds of girls are trafficked
to places like Haryana and Punjab, where the sex ratio is low. Most
of these girls are from poor families residing in Belonia, Sabroom and
Udaipur sub-division. “74 percent of the families live below poverty
line and illiteracy is high. These are the root causes,” said
Sreelekha Ray, executive director of VHAT.
The issue of cross
border migration of people and those concerning children needs to be
looked at from the perspective of migration of economically displaced
people from Bangladesh, Myanmar and other neighbouring countries into
the region, thereby making it an easy hunting ground for human trafficking.
“There exists a strong linkage between migration and trafficking
in the region. There is an urgent need to launch a sustained campaign
in addressing the vulnerability of migrants,” said Kharbhih.