Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

@

When marriage and job promises are used as baits

10 November, 2020 14:42:42
When marriage and job promises are used as baits

It was a balmy winter afternoon in 1994, when he first came across Maya (named changed on request) while chatting in a cyber cafe of Nepal. They turned family friends and Raju Nepali, the lone crusader, who for decades literally worked single-handedly in spreading awareness against child and women trafficking in both North Bengal and Nepal, even attended Maya's wedding as a friend. The next time he met Maya almost a decade later, was in a red-light area of Pune (where Raju had gone on his missionary conference), pleading him to rescue her from the jaws of exploitation. Raju put his own life at risk, booked a flight from Mumbai to Bagdogra and in the name of taking Maya from the brothel for a day out as a prospective customer, he drove her straight to Mumbai and from there on a flight to Bagdogra. Maya did not live long, dying a painful death within months after her rescue, due to AIDS.

Awareness in a Tea Garden in Dooars where number of children and women are trafficked from

Raju was shattered and it was this event that turned his world upside down. He realised how several women and their families are duped in the name of marriage in one of the most thriving infamous women and child trafficking corridor of Nepal-North Bengal border. Till then the Assembly of God Church Missionary-turned-crusader Raju Nepali, had not even heard much about the word trafficking! While chatting over phone from Darjeeling, Raju was animatedly relating what provoked him to join one of the largest rescue movements of the decade. In his own words: "The word trafficking to me meant just the traffic on the road. But after Maya's case, whose husband had sold her in a brothel of Pune, I met police officers of both Nepal and North Bengal and they shared several data and told me about the thriving business of child and women trafficking in North Bengal and Nepal. That's when my sense arose and Maya's plight left a deep scar. I pledged to single-handedly take up my fight against the traffickers by building awarenss."

Raju started visiting villages, semi urban areas, tea-estates, which happen to be the prime targets of traffickers, who exploit the poverty of the people of these areas.Either in name of marriage or jobs, they dupe these families and sell their children and women to prospective buyers in states like Maharashtra and in cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.Data shows the trend is dangerous and ever rising. Around 250,000 children were registered as missing on the government's Track Child Portal between January 2012 to March 2017 - that's five children vanishing every hour. But these figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as many cases are not registered by parents or the police dismiss such cases as runaways.

"The word trafficking to me meant just the traffic on the road. But after Maya's case, whose husband had sold her in a brothel of Pune, I met police officers of both Nepal and North Bengal and they shared several data and told me about the thriving business of child and women trafficking in North Bengal and Nepal. That's when my sense arose and Maya's plight left a deep scar. I pledged to single-handedly take up my fight against the traffickers by building awarenss.

‘Maya’s case was not registered. Her family could not contact her after marriage. It was only when I visited the family later, that I got to know Maya is untraceable. And I contacted the Nepal police with her husband’s photo. That’s when the police took out their files stating how this ‘so-called husband’ had several cases registered against him and the police had even issued a warrant!’

Raju Nepali later resigned from his missionary work and started his NGO, Duars Express Mail. When asked why such a name, Raju laughed and related his mission of awareness that started from New Mal and Mal junction of Alipurduar district of North Bengal, where he spoke to several women working along railway tracks as daily labourers. From them too, he learnthow they lost their daughters and children to traffickers. Many have never heard from them after they were married off. ‘I used to watch the Mahananda Express pass by, as these women would relate to me tales of such horror. That train gave me the idea of naming my NGO as Duars Express Mail,’ said Raju.

Jalpaiguri Sadar PS, taking details of a rescued child

His NGO now works across 8 districts of North Bengal from Darjeeling to Kalimpong, Alipurduar and even in rural areas of Nepal. He primarily visits schools, railway tracts, bustees, tea plantations and over a mic says: 'Do not trust anyone. Check everyone's background, even of a prospective husband.' To draw the crowd he uses music on his mic, local songs etc. Once the crowd gathers, he then starts his lecture. Raju believes mouth-to-mouth campaign that we often call as whispering campaign is the best way to spread awareness compared to leaflets etc which most illeterate people cannot read. 

Raju's campaign drew the attention of the authorities. From 2008-2010 he came across several government dignitaries including the secretary of Rashtriya Mahila Ayog, who personally came to meet him. The North Bengal Police have also been a big help. "Police force gave me 100 per cent support. They have all the data that I need, of missing people. Also, they operate 24 hours and at times we have to rescue these girls from other cities and hostile environments where we even get death threats. Hence we need police help. They are very active in North Bengal," Raju added. He specially remembers ACP Farooque of Siliguri and ACP Rajan Chhetri who helped him a lot even in rescuing girls sold as domestic help to A1 cities of India and held as bonded servants facing a lot of torture. 

"Around 130 such women and children are rescued every year by Raju and his team. When asked about his future plans, Raju Nepali sounds even more excited. “Oh Yes! I have planned to adopt 5 Tea Gardens of North Bengal and set up Girls’ Clubs with local girls who will themselves spread the awareness and stop the trafficking.’

Duars Express Mail now works with 2 other NGOs – with Rangu Sauriya of Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra, and with Nirnay Jones of Darjeeling Marg. At times even requests for rescue come from the police as Raju and his team are locals and they best know the people out there. After rescuing, the girls are taken for counselling and then handed over to the police to send them to their respective families or homes. In case of minors they are taken to the Magistrate and then handed over. 

Delivering speech on the disgrace of Human Trafficking in One Billion Rising Program, Citi Centre, Siliguri

Around 130 such women and children are rescued every year by Raju and his team. When asked about his future plans, Raju Nepali sounds even more excited. “Oh Yes! I have planned to adopt 5 Tea Gardens of North Bengal and set up Girls’ Clubs with local girls who will themselves spread the awareness and stop the trafficking.’ He signs off however on a sad note. ‘I still cannot forget what Maya went through. What a vivacious and friendly girl she was, how much dreams she had for a family after marriage and how she died from HIV, thanks to the exploitation she went through in the hands of traffickers!’

I signed off saying: ‘More power to you Raju,’ as he invited me to Darjeeling for a cup of brewing tea someday. 

Story Tag:
  • women and child trafficking, North Bengal

Leave a Comments

Related Post

×