After nearly four-and-a-half-year ordeal, two young Bangladeshi women, trafficked to India on promise of decent jobs, finally returned home last week, carrying bitter memories and psychological scars.
The women, aged 26 and 22, were lured to India by two women agents in October 2008 on the promise of jobs as housemaids, but ended up in the flesh trade, police said. They had to serve a two-year jail term under the Foreigners Act and were sent to government homes and once convicted for escaping from a home too.
Ever since they were arrested in Salem in October 2008, they underwent great mental agony and suffered incarceration in the Vellore central prison. They were finally set free on February last from the Mandapam refugee camp near here.
Two women agents had brought the girls to Bangalore and sold them to another agent, who pushed them into the flesh trade. Police arrested them during a night raid in Salem.
The Salem Principal Sessions Judge, on January 29, 2010 acquitted the girls under the Immoral Traffic Act, but sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment under the Foreigners’ Act (for not possessing appropriate documents). They served the sentence in Vellore Central Prison and were later brought to the Government Protection Home in Salem as they could not be repatriated immediately.
The two girls escaped from the Home, but were caught by the Police. A fresh case was slapped against them and the Judicial Magistrate Court-III Salem convicted them for the offence under section 224 (resistance or obstruction by a person to lawful apprehension) of Indian Penal Code. After they served the sentence, they were lodged in the quarantine prison at the Mandapam refugee camp on October 11, 2012.
As there were no signs of their repatriation a public interest litigation was filed in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court. When the case came up for hearing during December last year, the Centre’s standing counsel informed the court that the it had sent a communication dated November 23, 2012, directing the State government to repatriate the girls.
After recording the submission, a division bench comprising Justice K.N. Basha and Justice P. Devadass, in its order on January 9, directed the State Home Secretary and Ramanathapuram District Collector to repatriate the girls to their country within a period of seven days from the date of the receipt of a copy of the order.
“It was nothing but bureaucratic red tape. A great injustice has been done to these hapless girls,” S.J. Sheik Ibrahim, District legal intervention coordinator — People's Watch, said. The girls should have been repatriated in 2008 itself, he said.
District Collector K. Nanthakumar, however, said the girls could not have been released just like that. After getting clearance from the Union Home Ministry and Inspector General of Border Security Force (BSF) they were sent home safely, the Collector told The Hindu.
Superintendent of Police N.M. Mylvahanan said soon after getting the travel permit, the Inspector of Police, Thangachimadam, secured the release of two girls and escorted them to the border.