The Supreme Court (SC) in September, 2010 issued a directive stating that children
below the age group of 12 are barred from being sent outside Assam and Manipur
for education. The directive was issued after a probe was launched into
trafficking of 76 children from these states, most of them minor girls.
In spite of the SC order, over 5,000 children have gone missing in Assam between 2012 and 2015, according to a Crime Investigation Department (CID) report quoted by Outlook.
The Outlook report quotes a child right activist
claiming that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is making parents send their children away for education and no one wants to touch the cases because the RSS is involved.
Investigative reporter Neha Dixit tracked all the events that led to the trafficking of 31 tribal girls to Halvad, Gujarat and Patiala, Punjab.
A little more than a year ago on 9 June 2015, 31 tribal girls in the age group of eight and eleven were taken from Assam to Delhi. The girls were taken by two women, Korobi Basumatary and Sandhyaben Tikde, belonging to two Sangh parivar outfits, the Rashtra Sevika Samiti and Sewa Bharati, on the promise of education in Punjab and Gujarat.
The girls were from five border districts of Assam — Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Dhubri, Chirang and Bongaigaon. Most of the girls belonged to the Bodo and Santhal communities and came from families who were affected by the 2008 Bodo-Adivasi riots. Only the girls belonging to the affluent families were allowed to talk to their parents. The families are told that the girls will return after three to four years.
On 16 June 2015, the Assam State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) wrote a letter to Assam Police, and marked it to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The Commission called this incident “against the provision of Juvenile Justice Act 2000” and concluded that it amounts to “child trafficking”.
Neither the police nor the NCPCR took any action in the matter.
A Cobrapost report, by Syed Masroor Hasan, said, “Before the authorities could establish a case of trafficking and rescue the girls from their handlers, a mob of about 200 descended on the station. Within hours the girls were handed over to their new handlers.”
Outlook report said, “The Bodo and Adivasi girls, taken away from their homes, have now embraced patriarchal ideas of honour, sati and jauhar.” It also adds, “None of the girls have been put into proper schools. They are being taught local languages and culture.”
The report details the modus operandi followed by the alleged traffickers. Men and women affiliated to the Sangh give information about the girls to women like Korobi and Sandhya. They build close relations with the families and once they have their trust, they ask them to send their daughters away for education.
The handlers are usually people from the same neighbourhood and have previously been trained by the Sangh.
The people make the illiterate parents sign affidavits written in English which state that they are sending their daughters by their own will. The affidavits also mention that they are staying in the camps and don’t have any source of income.
In the bordering areas of Assam, there’s a comprehensive network of Sangh outfits which concentrate on welfare activities such as medical camps, activity camps and so on. That is how they network and find their targets.
Child Welfare Committee’s Inaction
On 11 June, Childline India Foundation (CIF) Delhi got a tip-off about the trafficked girls. The girls were rescued in New Delhi. The same day, Shaiju, a coordinator of Childline, wrote to Sushma Vij, chairperson of the Child Welfare.
But then an order of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Surendranagar, intervened and within a day, the girls were sent back on their way to Halvad and Patiala.
According to the report, when the investigation started, the Sangh workers sent people to the homes of all the families and took away all the documents and photographs from their family members. Even the Outlook reporters were asked to stop asking questions to the families and the workers.
The School in Gujarat
The report says that the school in which the girls are kept has pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses, and prominent Indian figures all over the walls.
The teachings in the school are aimed to instil “Hindu values” in the girls. The lessons are moulded around the Hindutva understanding of history, biology and geography. They pray in the morning and are taught about the great Hindu culture.
The hostel where they stay is not registered under the Juvenile Justice Act and it is illegal to keep children in such an unregistered institution.
The Outlook reporter wasn’t allowed to leave by the guards upon orders from the head of the school, who has close connections with BJP and police, until it was established that he was a Hindu-Brahmin.
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