The South Asian Times

19 September 2019 19:31 PM

How Rajasthan tribals suffer under trafficking tyranny (IANS Special)

By ARCHANA SHARMA

Jaipur, Aug 4: Last month, Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) MLA Raju Kumar Raot stunned the Rajasthan Assembly by stating that 60 children in the age group of 8 to 16, who had been reported "missing", had actually been "rented" out by their poverty-ridden parents to work as labourers and domestic helps for people in states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

According to the MLA, the tribal region of Vagad as well as villages in Banswara, Dungarpur and Pratapgarh districts -- all dominated by poorest of the poor Bhils and other such tribes -- are battling massive child trafficking for the past few years.

Raot's statement has started a new debate on the changing dynamics of human trafficking in Rajasthan. If tribal parents renting their children for money out of desperation is one aspect, the other aspect of it is the kidnapping of young girls and boys from tribal regions and their selling in neighbouring Gujarat for sex or slavery.

And this is a thriving trade in Bhamati, a poverty-ridden tribal halmet in Jadol tehsil of Udaipur. The people involved in the racket are repeatedly arrested and released on bail and therefore, the cycle of crime never ends. And the victims, mostly, never return.

"Parents who have money are successful in getting their children back," said former village sarpanch Shantilal Karadi.

One such lucky father is Surajmal Pargi, whose 16-year-old daughter was abducted while she was on her way to her sister's village and then sold for Rs 2 lakh by five people. She was recovered from Jalore after a four-month long search.

"We have arrested five people and registered a case under Section 370 (flesh trade)," said Ummedilal Meena, SHO, Jadol tehsil.

"I was lucky to get my daughter back after spending a heavy amount. But what about those who are poor and cannot afford to hire cabs and go around searching for their children?" asked Pargi.

Phalasiya village resident Nathulal's daughter was taken to Pali on the pretext of work. "Then the traffickers posing as her parents tried to sell her to another family. However, the family got suspicious and got a case registered against her real parents in Pali," said Nathulal.

 

Since then Nathulal and his wife have been making rounds of the court in Pali for hearings with little or no money at their hands.

Pargi said there were many such missing girls whose whereabouts were not known. "The agents shut the mouths of their poor parents by giving them some money, and they never go to the police to get a case registered. Sometimes these girls get in touch with their families after years when they have 3-4 children as a result of the physical torture meted out to them," he said.

Babu Devi, 39, was kidnapped from Bhamati and taken to Sri Ganganagar. "The kidnappers were trying to fix me with someone when I escaped, reached a railway station and boarded a train to Jaipur. From Jaipur, I took a bus to Jadol. My husband is too poor and illiterate to have got a complaint registered. However, I reached home on my own, hungry and thirsty, after several days of travel," she said.

Not just girls, young boys too are taken to Gujarat on the pretext of work and then not allowed to return home. They are kept as bonded labour. Kardi shared with IANS a list of names -- of four girls who have gone missing and 17 boys who have been taken away for work in the past few months from the neighbouring villages.

Mahaveer Meena, 17, was taken from his village in Jadol to Kherwada village in Gujarat to work as a labourer. "After eight days, I wanted to visit my family, but was not allowed to. Neither was I paid my salary. On the 10th day, I ran away and reached my village."

"There were 15 other boys like me. I informed their families as well. All of them hired a cab and went to Kherwada and secretly brought back those boys. The driver had some connection and helped us reach our village safely," he said, adding that now he is pursuing B.Com.

According to Kardi, "Such cases have increased in the last 6-7 years. Police needs to act tough on the people involved in trafficking so that they don't get bail. Strong laws are needed."

The Bharatiya Tribal Party is now planning to bring together all these victims of human trafficking and present them at Divisional Tribal Commissionerate office in Udaipur on August 9, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

BTP worker B.L. Chhanwal said: "Let the world know how the poverty and ignorance of tribals is being exploited to buy and sell them in India 70 years after independence."

 

Update: 04 Aug, 2019

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