This article was published in First Post on Nov 18, 2023 with title ‘West Bengal: The epicenter of sex trafficking’ – https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/opinion-west-bengal-the-epicentre-of-sex-trafficking-13395082.html
In his 2014 article in Telegraph titled ‘My five most Hellish moments’, award winning and highly acclaimed international investigative journalist Ross Kemp wrote how West Bengal, India is one of the five most hellish places in the world because it is a place where most dangerous sex traffickers operate with immunity using help from certain members of the authorities. Ross is creator of the widely popular hit series, ‘Extreme World‘ that took him to many very dark corners of the world such as in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Haiti and India, particularly West Bengal. His Telegraph article and even a book, ‘A-Z of hell’ is based on his ‘Extreme World’ series. Writing in his book, ‘A-Z of hell’, he describes the Congo conflict that saw 6 million dead and 400,000 women raped every year is a place where he met the worst criminals as part of creating his series. However, nothing left him with more disgust than when he met a young sex trafficker in West Bengal named, ‘Khan’, who he believes is one of the world’s biggest mass murderers. Khan admitted on camera that he had lost count of how many girls he had killed which he estimated around 400 and that he had trafficked literally thousands of girls. He told him how when it looked like they were going to be caught, he was put under pressure by people in authority to kill the girls!
Ross estimated that about 100,000 girls go missing every year in India and it is a major multi-million dollar inhumane industry that flourishes with active support of the authorities. As part of this series, he went around the red light districts of India such as in Kolkata, Bombay and with great difficulty was able to interview a trafficked girl who describes her ordeal in a heart wrenching account of how after being trapped when she was just 12 years old with a promise of job she was held in one room for 3 years with more than 15 customers per day. These girls are forced to engage in unprotected sex orally, anally and vaginally repeatedly for years.
Ross documented in his video the many parents in West Bengal who came to him begging and sobbing requesting him to recover their daughter because of complete indifference of the authorities to their plight. These parents come from all backgrounds, Hindus and Muslims and some minor girls as young as 3 years old.
Ross’s series also documented using a secret camera the young children held in the Bombay red light district and it makes you wonder if a foreign journalist can do it with such ease, what is stopping the authorities in investigating and stopping such activities across the brothels in the nation and get to the gangs of sex traffickers. This is nothing short of slavery and gross shame on the nation, worse than public defecation, worse than beggars on the streets, worse than instances of starvation. It is naked terrorism perpetrated on the most helpless, young girls from poor families. Many are as young as 10 years old, confined in a room for years and fed with hormones so their breasts grow to make them attractive to customers forced to do unnatural and unprotected sex , with never ending numbers of customers. Given the humongous tragedy, Ross questioned how India, which spends a larger percentage of GDP on arms than the United States, has multi-million dollar space programs but could not address this problem of such scale and such brutality.
The recent incident of a girl with her hands and legs tied, her throat slit and her face set on fire is a stark example of what happens in some districts of West Bengal, perhaps a common occurrence. But for the ground level activists such as Singha Bahini who have posted the heart wrenching video on twitter, the world would not have known it. How the police handled it is another stark example of what Ross described in his findings. The police first threatened the activists not to post the video and after that instead of apprehending the criminal gangs and their leaders who perpetrated such gruesome murder, police found a mentally deranged person as the culprit. It is believed that the girl is from Bangladesh and as the sex trafficker Mr. Khan who was interviewed by Ross mentioned, her death was probably necessary because she caused risk to their business. Do we as a nation have the conscience to let these incidents go by as if they hardly matter? Which politician, which judge or lawyer or bureaucrat would stand by if this happens to their own daughter or a close relative?
West Bengal is not just famous for sex trafficking of minor girls as young as 3 years old, but also for love Jihad. The recent case of love Jihad where a 15 year old SC girl Piyali Goldar was gang raped and her dead body was hung from a tree is another example. The police allege 17 year old Iliyas Mondal and two other Islamic micreants committed the heinous crime. Will she get justice? As the tweet from Devdutta of Singha Bahini who met the family notes, why did the police rush to get the funeral done immediately? Why did the local ruling party’s leader convince the victim’s uncle to sign blank papers at wee hours of the night at 3 AM while the family is grieving the loss. As Ross indicated, the state is a hell hole of India and this is just another among many examples. The constitution of India has provided provisions such as article 355 for the Center to take over law and order of a state but it has grossly failed in its responsibilities. It is not only Center, but also judiciary has grossly failed and doing gross injustice to citizens of India by looking the other way and completely abdicating their responsibility when they recused themselves during post poll violence that caused half million to be displaced, thousands of women raped and beaten and livelihood of thousands destroyed. Indian media is covering the plight of Palestinian children in the Israel-Hamas war, but has no heart to cover the miserable plight of hundreds of thousands of young girls in their own country!
In conclusion of his wonderful video on sex trafficking in India, Ross showed how if a minor girl survives premature death, acid attacks, sexual slavery, what ultimately happens to her. He interviews a 40 year old woman who was sold for Rs 225 as a minor girl and forced into sexual slavery for 20 years, days before she died of AIDS and Tuberculosis, living off the street in a corner in the streets of Bombay. Her face and tone shows the anguish and pain she has been through and says how girls like her are forced to do unprotected sex and the misery of their life only ends with a premature death. Though she is only 40 years old, she could be easily mistaken to be a terminally sick 80 year old.
India is spending crores of rupees in institutions like National Commission for Women (NCW), National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and they hardly scratch the surface of the enormous problem facing the most helpless of people. Shameless politicians and media speak of such crimes only if it is politically convenient or increase their TRPs. Poor people’s lives are hard enough and it is a shame that we cannot bring in stringent laws and protect the rights of our minor girls. Even if there are laws such as POSCO, corrupt local authorities compromise and subvert the laws. There is little deterrence even if there is a death sentence because it needs stringent and swift implementation to be effective. National institutions need to be given powers to pursue against compromised state authorities working with sex trafficking gangs. There is a desperate need for legally helping the afflicted families and having a national register by pertinent state and central organizations tracking and updating each case progress and ensuring justice is done. We cannot become an advanced nation if we allow such heinous crimes go without punishment and we cannot hide between state and center power boundaries. THIS IS A NATIONAL SHAME.