‘In the past 3 years, over 77 Assamese children have been rescued’

Now penniless and without a clue about how to rescue their 12-year-old daughter Lakshmi, who went missing over eight months ago from their village in Assam, Deepak Munda and his wife are in the Capital looking for their child and stuck with no means to return home for over six months now.

The couple is now staying at a shelter home run by non-government organisation working in the area of child rights, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA).

Holding up a black and white photocopy of their only child sitting in The Hindu office on Friday evening, the couple narrated the ordeal they had been through.

“Our child was kidnapped by an agent in Assam and brought to Delhi. This we got to know through our people in the village and so we came here in search of our child. We even tracked her down to the placement agency and when we went there we were told that if she works for two-three more days she will get her entire month’s salary. So we waited and even handed the placement agency owner the money we were carrying. This, he said, was to be used as transport charges for Lakshmi,’’ said Deepak.

Now, six months later, the couple are yet to get back their child and have no money left even to feed themselves.

“Whenever we go to the agency, they abuse us and throw us out. We even threatened them with police action and still there is no result. We will go back to Assam only after getting our child back,’’ said Deepak, holding onto the shoulders of his wife, who silently sobbed.

Sadly Deepak and his wife aren’t alone in this tragedy. Also ‘stuck’ in Delhi for over a month is Sadan Tanti from Assam’s (Dulahat tea garden) whose two granddaughters – Unita (15 years) and Sunita (17 years) – went missing. “While my eldest granddaughter went missing several months ago, recently even her younger sister was ‘kidnapped’ and reportedly brought through a placement agency to Delhi,’’ said Sadan.

Carrying the passport photo’s of his grandchildren he has been going to various placement agencies with help from BBA. “So far I have only got to know that my girls have been ‘trafficked’ to Mumbai. So I will now go to Mumbai. I cannot go back home without my granddaughters. I have a son who is mentally unstable and these girls are all I have to live for,’’ he added.

In the city looking for his sister, who went missing from the same area as Unita and Sunita, is also Jisoya Tanti, who has been in Delhi for over two weeks now. Narrating his story, Jisoya said: “My sister was kidnapped by a local agent and after I came here I got to know that she was kept as a bonded labourer in some house. But now I have got information that she has managed to run away from the place and I have no whereabouts of her. I have appealed to the Delhi Police and have been putting pressure on the placement agencies to find my sister but so far nothing has materialised.’’

Refusing to go back along without his sister, Jisoya said: “I am stuck in Delhi till I find my sister. Where can I go? I need to know if she is dead or alive.’’

Meanwhile, Assam has in the recent years emerged as one of the ‘hotspots’ for child trafficking according to child rights activists. BBA founder Kailash Satyarthi speaking about this large-scale child trafficking, specially from Assam, said: ``The place has become a hub for child trafficking and there are areas here which are notoriously unsafe for children. Many placement agencies are earning huge profits by bringing in children from these States to the Capital and also sending them to Mumbai from here.’’

He added that in the past three years alone, over 77 Assamese children who were trafficked have been rescued after BBA lodged complaints.

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