I was investigating sex trafficking, and we had managed to track down one of the most prolific traffickers.
This guy – who I’ll call Mr Khan – was trafficking thousands of girls a year. He said he had lost count of how many he’d killed, but estimated it was around 400. He was being helped out by certain members of the authorities, and when it looked like they were going to get caught, he was put under pressure by these people in authority to kill the girls.
He worked as a honeytrap, so he’d go into a village; shower a girl and her family with gifts. He’d say he was going to take her away somewhere lovely, but as soon as he had her on a train she’d be drugged. She’d wake up in a bed and be gang raped, then forced into prostitution through shame, without the ability to get back home. Even if she did make it home, would she ever be accepted by her family again?
I’m not supposed to judge, but this was one of the times I found it very hard not to. He was trying to justify the killing of these girls by saying he would have been killed himself if he didn’t do it. He had gold rings on his fingers, a very nice car, and some bodyguards with him. After the interview I just had to say ‘get him out of my sight’. I had so much loathing for the man, I can’t tell you.
Afghanistan was the continuously hardest place I’ve ever been to – the relentlessness of it, the threat level. When I was there in 2007 for Ross Kemp in Afghanistan there were 18-hour patrols, there were injuries, there were people not making it back.
One time I was out with a company and we were ambushed. We were walking out of a poppy field when these rocket-propelled grenades just whistled over our heads – crack and thump. It never made it onto film because all of us, including the cameraman, hit the deck at the same time.
While my head was down, I said ‘Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon a little child; pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to thee’. I repeated that 19 times before we started firing back. I kept my head down, digging with my eyebrows, but these rounds were cutting through the air. I was wincing when they flicked past my face. The shooting lasted about eight minutes but it felt like hours. Then these guys carried on their patrol for another 12, 13 hours. And that was just day one of a nine-day operation.
I was in Kenya to film an episode of Ross Kemp on Gangs, focussing on the Mungiki gang, which controls parts of Nairobi. While I was there, though, I was taken to see this rubbish tip outside Eldoret, a town to the west of the country, where kids whose parents had been the victims of ethnic cleansing would go.
A lot of these kids were addicted to glue, with male and female children selling their bodies so they could buy it. I’ll never forget seeing one girl – who was very young, just post-puberty – drop the baby she was carrying on its head. She picked the baby up, took the glue bottle she had in her own mouth and put it in the baby’s mouth.
When I spoke these children, they told me their parents had been killed and they wanted to go to school. Whether that was the case or because they knew that was the right way to get money out of a Westerner, it was very heart wrenching. We worked with Save the Children to raise money and get those kids out of the dump. My job’s normally to raise awareness rather than intervene, but I couldn’t just sit by and watch them sell their bodies for glue.
A child with a bottle of glue in Eldoret, Kenya
The cholera outbreak in Haiti, following the earthquake in January 2010, was horrendous. Travelling through the villages was like the Monty Python sketch ‘Bring out your dead’, but the reality wasn’t very funny, I have to say. I remember seeing these young legs piled up in the back of an open lorry we were travelling behind. When the medical teams would arrive to pick up a body, the family would want to say goodbye to it, they’d want to kiss it and touch it – which of course is how the disease spreads. Cholera has now killed more than 8,000 Haitians.
Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012
I was in the Congo for a film in the second series of Extreme World. Not only is the war in the Congo the bloodiest conflict since the end of the Second World War, with around six million dead since 1998, but almost 400,000 women are raped there every year.
I met girls who had their arms cut off before being gang raped. Others had had bayonets stuck inside them or burning plastic bottles, which would seal them up. It’s inhuman.
I said I wanted to come face-to-face with the people who had been responsible for these attacks – but of course, when I do, they look like children. In their teens, not even. So who are the victims? Rape is a weapon of war; these boys aren’t doing it for a laugh, they’re doing it because they are being forced into it. I went to one prison to meet boy soldiers who had been captured.
There was one who was celebrating his ninth birthday, but who had been locked up for life. What future does he have? He told me he had been taken away by his family in the night and told he would be beaten if he didn’t take part in the war.
Kemp with a woman whose arms had been chopped off, Democratic Republic of Congo
Delhi Police busts a human trafficking racket: Rape victim rescued, 3 arrested
Human trafficking Delhi
New Delhi: With the arrest of three persons, the Delhi Police has busted a human trafficking racket and solved a rape case involving a young girl, who was lured from West Bengal with promise of marriage, but was being forced into prostitution.
Those arrested in this case have been identified as Shahjahan Molliya, alias Bapi (27), resident of Majampur Uttarpara, North 24 Pargana, West Bengal, Nafees, alias Sameer (28 years) and an accused woman (27), both resident of Kabir Nagar in Delhi.
On the intervening night of 23 and 24 May, at about 12:10 am, a PCR call was received informing that a woman was being beaten by a couple of boys. The Welcome Police station responded promptly and sub-inspector Ombir Singh along with the staff reached the spot – 2nd Floor of H. No. C-16/2, Gali No. 16, Kabir Nagar, Delhi and found a girl, about 19 years old, who was extremely scared and unable to communicate as she knew neither Hindi nor English.
The investigating officer, accompanied by a lady constable, took the girl to GTB Hospital and got her medical examination conducted on 24 May. With the help of an NGO, the victim’s counselling was also done. She told the NGO voluneers that her father had died and she was living with her mother, who worked as a tailor at her native village. She also informed them that she had been given the mobile number of Bapi (Shahjahan) by one of her neighbors.
The victim further stated that she had been told by her neighbour that Bapi is a good boy and will marry her. So she started talking to him. She was initially reluctant but left with him on 19 May, when he promised to marry her and forced her to come to Delhi. After they arrived at the Old Delhi Railway Station on 20 May, Bapi took her to a Hotel near Jama Masjid and during the night he forced her into a physical relationship on the pretext of marriage. Next morning he took the girl to one Raju’s house, where they stayed for two nights. During this period, Bapi, Raju and his wife tried to force her into prostitution. Raju even tried to build a physical relationship with her and she was slapped and beaten up when she refused. After that Bapi brought her to another house, that of a woman, at Welcome in Delhi, where Bapi, the accused woman, Sameer and Irshad (a friend ofSameer) tried to force her into pprostitution and as she resisted, she was again beaten up. When she talked to a neighbour over telephone, she was advised to take to prostitution. At this stage, Irshad also tried to molest her.
According to Veenu Bansal, Deputy Commissioner of Police, North-East District: Delhi, the victim’s statement was recorded with the help of the NGO and an interpreter and a case under Sections 323/354/366/368/370/376/120-B of IPC was registered at Welcome Police station on 24 May.
The Police team that busted the traffickers’ gang comprised of Inspector Prashnat Kumar SHO-Welcome, sub-inspectors Manish Kumar and Gunjan, Assistant sub-inspector Bhisham Rana, Head Constables Jai Parkash and Yogendra and Constable Ravindra
The doctor who conducted the medical examination of the girl at GTB Hospital on 24 May, confirmed signs of sexual violence. Two of the accused – Bapi and Sameer were arrested the same day. The accused woman, who was arrested on 25 May, revealed during interrogation that she is a sex worker. On further investigation, the police learnt that the traffickers’ gang had hatched a plan for trafficking innocent girls from rural areas of West Bengal by luring them on the pretext of marriage and then pushing them into prostitution.
A trip to a part of Bengal where humans are bought and sold everyday
Kolkata: It takes about two hours by road and then a boat to reach Sandeshkhali, an island in the Sunderbans. This area is infamous for the conflict between its residents and tigers. Now, it has a bigger problem to contend with – human trafficking.
In a reply to a Lok Sabha question on missing people last month, the Minister of State for Home Affairs shared some shocking data from across the country. In the last one year, 14,000 adults and children have disappeared from West Bengal. Most of them are believed to have been swallowed up by the huge trafficking trade that is accustomed to treating West Bengal as its catchment area.
The statistics shared by the government: More than 8000 girls have disappeared, another 5500 males have also been reported missing by their families.
Buyers refer to villages like Sandeshkhali as “a source area.” In the last 10 years, virtually every household has a mother waiting for a daughter to return. Sandeshkhali was devastated by cyclone Aila in 2009. The natural disasters in this area have left it ravaged physically and emotionally. The region has been drenched in poverty for years. That makes it vulnerable to any offer that promises money, even if it entails sending young children to far away cities.
A mother talks to us about her 16-year-old daughter who left home six years ago when she was promised a job in Hyderabad. The family was told by the middlemen who collected the teen that a part of her salary would be sent home every month. They have never heard from their daughter after that. “They took her for a year but Durga Puja came, Kali Puja came… year after year passed but she never returned,” says the woman in a small thatched house. She has four children including two girls at home with her still. Their monthly income is Rs.1000 – an amount that means when the next buyer arrives, it may not be possible to turn him down.
Remote villages like this one have an established kingpin – in this case, a man named Hari – who serves as the middleman between families here and those in cities who will sell the women into prostitution or to agencies that supply domestic help. When confronted, Hari threatened us and tried to take our camera away. Hari sells the girls to the nearest town. From there, they are traded several times over before they arrive in big cities. Those who are not sold to brothels end up with employment agencies who supply domestic help to homes in Delhi. Many agencies ensure they collect the salaries from employers, ensuring that the help receives no money. Without any resources in a strange and large city, there are few ways to return home or seek help for a better living.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has directed state governments to set up special Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in every district. In West Bengal this initiative was meant to begin three years ago. Each unit is supposed to have a minimum of five persons equipped with camera, cellphones and a vehicle. The need for these cells was felt after a report by the National Human Rights Commission which said in 2006 that nearly 45,000 children go missing every year in India.