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Gritty cousins wont let off their traffickers

TIMES OF INDIA  AMBIKA PANDIT 

NEW DELHI: When Seema (name changed) boarded the train to Kolkatta from New Delhi Railway Station she hoped this will be her last visit to the capital and the end of a 10-year long trauma that began in 2003. She was abducted along with her sister and dumped in the city’s largest red light area on G B Road. They were rescued a year later.

Happily married and settled in their native village, the two girls who were then 15-years-old, have grown into strong women. Since then, they have come thrice to Delhi to give their statement in the ongoing case against the culprits at a trial court here.

TOI met the women at the railway station as they waited in the sweltering heat. On being asked why they were here despite the soaring temperatures, Seema said, “I don’t want other girls to fall in the same rut.” Seema was beaten and tortured while she was at the brothel and cannot bear a child due to the atrocities inflicted on her by the brothel-keeper. But her supportive husband makes life worth living for her.

Seema remembers how she and her cousin sister had set out by train from their native village to visit a relative in a nearby district. A woman co-passenger offered the sisters water which they accepted without any suspicion. The girls have no memory of what transpired thereafter and only gained consciousness after reaching Delhi.

Seema recalls how the sisters made many failed attempts to flee. A year later, when the brothel was raided, the brothel-keeper shifted Seema to a hideout in Shakarpur in east Delhi. She used this opportunity to her benefit. When the residents of the house below realized she was being held captive they called the police to rescue her. Seema then led the police team to the brothel and her sister was also rescued.

The sisters returned to West Bengal and say that if it wasn’t for the support they got from their families, they would have never survived. “Our neighbors used to pass hurtful comments but my father and brother supported us. We eventually got married and our husbands know of our past,” said Seema’s cousin Nitu, who now has a five-year-old daughter.

But the sisters feel the pain of the long drawn legal battle that has dragged on for 10 years. The sisters say that all they want now is to see the accused punished.

Rishikant from NGO Shakti Vahini, which has been assisting the girls through the case, said the sisters were not given any kind of rehabilitation by the West Bengal government or the Delhi government. “Both girls have been called to give witness thrice. It is traumatic for them to repeat the same statements. Expeditious proceedings are critical in such cases so that the victims don’t have to appear again and again,” he said.

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