Women Trafficking Menace in Assam
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
In 2014 when the United Nations decided to observe World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30 for the first time and every year since then, the Nobel Peace Prize committee also, in a way, acknowledged the issue by declaring the name of Kailash Satyarthi as one of the two recipients of Nobel Peace Prize whose Bachpan Bachao Andolan since 1980 also raised the issue of child trafficking.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in India also started to collect data on human trafficking under section 370 and 370A of Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals exclusively with human trafficking cases, for the first time. Before that trafficking was perceived to be a gender biased crime in the sense of victims concerned and so the data was incorporated under the broad head of crimes against women. It was thus a year of watershed development for human trafficking.
The common people in the Northeast corner of the country were somehow oblivious of the fact that Assam grew as the major source of human trafficking with more than four persons disappearing every day. The same year, the young generation was busy applauding and dancing to the popular Assamese music album ‘Babur Gaan’ released in December, 2014. The song which gained much popularity went like this: “Laden asil polai..goi Pakistan.. tomak pise polai loi jam Rajasthan”
It was the song which is still very popular chanting Rajasthan as the safe place for elopement of lovebirds. The irony is that the modus operandi of traffickers of young women in Assam is through the promise of false marriage and taking them through elopement to other states including Rajasthan to force them into flesh trade and forced servitude. If trading in human being was legal like it was in the medieval Assam, this song could have been the best advertisement for probable victims for luring them into the trap.
The whole issue of women trafficking somehow misses its deserved place in policy making due to deceiving statistical proof. Unaware family members of the victims as well as unprofessional attitude of police personnel mostly lodges complaints as ‘missing women’ and not as trafficked. According to official records of CID, Assam, during 2003 to 2013 only 2.72 per cent of total missing women were trafficked. And yet in 2015 a total of 1494 human trafficking cases were registered in Assam. If with proper initial investigation all the cases were registered, may be many of the victims could have been saved from whimpering nights in distant brothels.
Lacking of sufficient manpower, the police department is already overburdened with tormenting law and order situation of the region and thus the quality of investigating duties somehow gets compromised. Primary investigation reveals the striking reality that the investigating officers have to pay from their own pocket for all investigation expenses. The reimbursement procedure is lengthy and allegedly corrupt. Police, being a state subject, the multi-state nature of trafficking crimes makes the cases more expensive, more time consuming and more critical as cooperation from other state police are not always readily available.
The victims mostly from poor families with rural backgrounds thus remain only as a case number in police diaries and losing hope on humanities and gods for obvious reasons. These victims are mostly from poor socio-economic background who fall prey in the trap of the traffickers owing to their helplessness due to abject poverty and ignorance. Plagued by recurring ethnic violence along with natural calamities such as floods, the numbers of probable victims have been increasing in this region. Unaware of the probable dangers that might be lying in front these probable victims are lured by traffickers in the pretext of profitable employment opportunities, marriage, glamorous lives they see in televisions and cinemas, etc.
In the last 10 years the problem has aggravated with telecom revolution and introduction of mobile phones. ‘Miss-call phenomenon’ has come with this. This has saved the physical labour of traffickers to locate and convince the prey. From a miscall in mobile phones then to friendship, love, elopement and finally commoditising a girl needs several hours of sweet talks only. The traffickers are not always someone unknown to victims. Anybody can be a trafficker from their own parents to the faceless person whispering love talks at the other end of a phone call. But mostly they are someone already known to the family of the victims.
The destinations are mainly urban areas such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, etc. Biased sex ratio against females in some of the states like Haryana has also increased the demand for Northeastern girls for marriage and domestic servitude. The sociological transformation from joint to nuclear urban families has also raised the demand for house maid from relatively poor pockets of the country making it the dominant nature of work in which victims are engaged. Primary investigation among rescued victims has revealed that domestic servitude is closely interlinked with sexual exploitations of these girls.
Poor employment opportunities in the state, socio-political unrest, apathetic attitude of the policy makers, complex and expensive judicial procedures are the loopholes through which traffickers are flourishing.
Someday if you meet a woman in a remote Haryana village termed as Paro she is most likely a girl whose family is still waiting for her in Assam. The plenty in numbers of such girls has added this term in local vocabulary. This term is used for any outsider girl usually hailing from Assam who was married to a local.
(The author is an Assistant Professor of Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bineswar Brahma Engineering College in Kokrajhar, Assam. The views given by the author is his personal opinion)