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From darkness to light in North East India
The North East Coordinator UNODC, Dr Pushkar Singh was on mission to Manipur from the 3rd to the 6th of October 07 when he learnt about this incident of trafficking and met and interacted with two girls from Manipur. Their story left him benumbed and strengthened his resolve to fight against trafficking in all its forms. He contributed this story.
Disclaimer: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.
Manipur is one of the north eastern states of India bounded on the east by Myanmar, on the west by Assam, on the north by Nagaland and on the South by Myanmar and Mizoram. This is the story of two girls of Manipur who underwent a traumatic period in their lives in the past few months. How many more at this very moment are undergoing the trauma of trafficking is a thought which sends chills down our spines and exhorts us to do whatever we can to curb nay exorcise the evils of trafficking from the future of mankind.
Suangdoh is a small village about 95 km from Imphal the State Capital and lies in district Churachandpur which is one of the nine districts of Manipur bordering Myanmar and Mizoram. There are approximately 33 ethnic groups residing in Manipur and Suangdoh is inhabited by Paitay and Kuki tribes. Two girls Kimmy and Loi (names changed) are 14 and 12 years old and they live along with their brother and sisters. They belong to two very poor families residing in the village. The parents are illiterate farmers and work as laborers in various fields during the harvesting season and during the off season the fathers go to neighboring Mizoram and work as carpenters. The children did go to school initially but had to drop out because of financial problems. The parents had gone away from home for the past 6-7 months to distant interior villages to earn money as laborers and the children survived on what meagre food they had and when that finished on roots and berries from the jungle. Lack of food and gnawing hunger pangs finally prompted three girls and one boy to run away from home and they came to Churachandpur town in June 07 and started work in a Hotel where they were promised Rs 300/- per month. The work involved cooking, cleaning, sweeping and serving the customers. The female hotel owner treated the children as bonded labor and paid them only Rs 10 on Sundays.
One day a lady from Imphal came to the hotel and told Kimmy and Loi that she would get them a job in Imphal for Rs 500/- per month and they placed their trust in the lady and came to Imphal in July 07. On reaching Imphal they were taken to a house in BOC (The unofficial red light area of Imphal) and immediately introduced into the flesh trade. The two virgins had to service 5 to 8 clients every day from 6am to 10pm and no amount of crying, pleading or begging was accepted by the brothel owner. They tried to seek help from the people who used to come to the brothel but their language was not understood by anybody. Every day the brothel owner used to take them with her to another house after 10pm. On the 6th day of this living hell the girls had an increased number of clients and that night the brothel owner left them in the brothel to carry on working and went home. The girls were in constant pain and in the early morning of the 7th day Kimmy heard her own language being spoken by a lady. She ran downstairs and pleaded with this Paitay lady to help them.
This Good Samaritan helped them to reach the police, who acted promptly and arrested the lady trafficker. The Judicial magistrate and the police had often been sensitized on the subject of trafficking by Ms Annie Mangsatabam the chief functionary of an NGO called Integrated Women and Children Development Centre (IWCDC) based in Imphal and a partner NGO of the UNODC. She is also the chairperson of the State Child Welfare Committee set up under the Juvenile Justice act.. The children were initially sent to the Punya children home and later entrusted to Annie's care. Kimmy and Loi came to IWCDC with fear and trepidation in their hearts but they were showered with so much love and affection in the ensuing days that today three months later they are slowly distancing themselves from the nightmare they had undergone. After sustained efforts by Annie and her staff the parents of the girls were located after 3 weeks of their coming to IWCDC. The girls wanted to go back to their village and inform all their friends of their story so that they don't fall prey to inducements from outsiders, but the parents have refused to take them back home as the publicity has caused a lot of stigma and discrimination to be attached to the girls and they would now not be accepted back in the village.
Kimmy and Loi have finally found a ray of light to guide their path and are staying on at IWCDC for the time being and plan to study further. As per the records of the State Child Welfare Committee approximately 1500 children from poor families on the pretext of education and shelter have moved out of Churachandpur district of Manipur to towns and cities all over India. The Chairperson (Quote) "believes that quite a few may have ended up on the railway platforms, others as domestic servants and still others as bonded laborers" ( Unquote). The time to ponder on this problem is over, we have to act now, so let us all unite and fight trafficking and all its associated evils.