NEW DELHI: She doesn’t look a day above 17 years. So it comes as a shock when a painfully thin three-year-old tugs at her blouse and calls her “ma” . It turns out that Savita (name changed) is about 20 years old — though she isn’t certain about her exact age or even birth date. In her young life, she has already been traded to live with strange men thrice, and borne two sons, aged three and one, respectively.
Sitting listlessly in a shelter in Delhi, she struggles to manage her loosely
draped sari and her kids. There is little hope left in her — she has already experienced far more than she should have at her age. “I was taken from my parents’ home in their absence and brought to Delhi by Kaalu Sheikh who had raped me,” she said in a voice totally devoid of emotion.
Savita was then taken to Bharatpur, Rajasthan, and sold for Rs 10,000. “Initially I was asked to live with a man called Bachu. I protested and got beaten up. Then he got me married to his elder brother Binod Jatu,” she added. Jatu is the father of the two children.
Rescued by the anti-human trafficking unit, CID, West Bengal; Bharatpur police and Shakti Vahini, an NGO, she is returning to her village in Bardhaman after three years. Savita’s experiences have changed her a great deal. She has become quieter than ever. “Before I was taken to Rajasthan, I used to wear a frock. There I was told to wear a sari,” she said. “I taught myself to wear one.”
Cops say Savita is one of the rare cases where a missing person is traced and rescued from the trafficking nexus. “Her rescue became imperative after the Calcutta high court directives in March that had asked for this girl to be produced before it. Investigations were transferred to us from the district police,” said Sarbari Bhattacharjee, officer in charge, trafficking unit.
It was her parent’s relentless effort that got the machinery moving. Savita’s parents gave a vital clue when they said a neighbour might be involved. “We had to reopen the case in the trial court. Earlier , the district police had filed a closure report,” said Bhattacharjee.
She added: “Usually there is no information on where the minor is taken and by whom. Less than 1% are rescued and restored to their families.”
According to the government data, 19,524 minors went missing in Kolkata in 2011, of which only 7,227 were traced. Of the untraced , 8,725 were women. Most of the missing persons end up in the “prostitution, forced marriages or begging rackets”, said Rishi kant from Shakti Vahini. Even as Savita waits for her train back to Bardhaman , she finds herself torn between motherhood and childhood and is unclear as to what the future holds for her.