Jun 1, 2008

Thriving Sex Trade Of Hindu Girls in Mewat

Mewat is seeing a bull run. Here, Hindu girls from Assam come cheaper than cattle. Floods in Assam are a cause for much delight to Muslims who are in the flesh trade in distant Haryana. More distress means the crashing of prices of the most sought-after commodity from the northeastern state—young hindu girls who serve as sex slaves.

"Mewat is one of the biggest markets with thousands of girls sold for prices ranging from Rs 4,000-20,000."

Mewat region, a belt that runs south and southwest of Delhi, is now one of the biggest markets where thousands of Hindu girls are sold at prices ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 20,000. The variation in price depends on the physical condition and the degree of abuse inflicted on the girl from the time she was bought from her village in Assam. NGOs working against the trafficking of these Hindu girls believe that there are good reasons for 'buyers' from Haryana to travel nearly 2,000 kilometres to procure girls.

"It is simple," says Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an organisation fighting for sex workers' rights. "They all come very cheap. You can buy a girl for Rs 4,000. It is cheaper than buying cattle. Of course, in Assam, people in the villages actually believe that the girls are leaving home for a better life."

Last month, police rescued four minor girls from the Hatin block in Faridabad district. Each of these was procured for a price by a tout named Hanif. He is now behind bars but the real horror is the wide social sanction the practice of procuring girls for a price has in this belt. Villagers refuse to accept there's anything wrong about buying or selling girls. The practice is discussed openly and is prevalent among the muslim communities. Women, they say, are property and the state has no business interfering in such "personal" matters.

Which is why the whole of Buraka village sympathises with Shahzadi. "I bought Minakshi (name changed) for Rs 12,000," she tells you. "I had to sell part of my land for that. Now the police have taken her and one of my sons away. What is wrong if the girl chooses to be sold and I choose to buy her for my sons?"

Nothing, if you ask the local Muslim villagers. They describe how Hanif, the tout, had brought Minakshi to Buraka village for selling her to "whoever could pay the price". Recalls Shahzadi's neighbour Fateh Mohammad: "She was sitting right there under the tree. Hanif was showing her off because she was to be sold. All of us went to have a look. Shahzadi and her husband Razak bought her for their three sons. Thousands of these Hindu girls are bought and sold in the villages all around us. We really don't see anything wrong with this practice."

What Minakshi had to go through before she was employed by Shahzadi to 'serve' her sons is a shocking tale. "I was raped by six men," she confessed sobbing, as the police took her away to Karnal to be lodged in a home for women criminals. She was sold three times. Each time, this frail Hindu girl of about 14 was sexually abused by her Muslim buyers.

Deepa (name changed), another girl captured along with Minakshi, looks in a worse condition. She says she is 13. But her pale and drawn face, her tiny feet and hands belie that fact. She hardly speaks any Hindi, let alone Haryanvi, and it was only with great difficulty that she could convey to the police that she was pregnant. She says she was "married" to a Muslim man, 20 years older than her because his first wife could not have any children. There is no record of any marriage ever having taken place. Her "husband", Khursheed, has been arrested for trafficking. His first wife Ameena (name changed) admits that money was paid to get Deepa.

"Mewat is one of the biggest markets with thousands of girls sold for prices ranging from Rs 4,000-20,000."

"Thoda bahut kharcha pani to dena hi padta hai (One has to pay some money to people who get the girls)," says Ameena, who is about 23. "I can't have children," she says. She's an invalid, who had to have several operations after losing one leg. "What's the use of having me as a wife? I told my husband to get a new girl. So he got this new Hindu girl for sex and children. Now he has been arrested. Everyone here is buying Hindu girls. Why has my husband been arrested?" she asks with genuine bewilderment.

The police officials who rescued the girls now seem reluctant to talk about the issue. "Why don't you do a survey of this entire belt? This is a backward area," says the rescue team leader, Sukhwinder Singh, SHO at the Hatin police station. The state government won't even acknowledge this menace. Vina Igleton, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Haryana, refused to comment. And the central government is only just waking up to the issue. "It is a horrifying trend. I am going to get the facts verified and take up the matter with the Assam chief minister," says Dr C.P. Thakur, Minister for Development of the North-Eastern region.

The Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) is about the only official entity that has initiated some action. Following the rescue of the four Hindu girls by the Hatin police, DWCD secretary R.V.V. Iyer wrote to Haryana chief secretary A.N. Mathur expressing concern and asking for details of any follow-up. "We are still to receive a reply although we plan to pursue the matter in all possible ways," says a DWCD official.

Unofficially, however, police officials admit that there are over 5,000 Hindu girls, mainly from Assam, who have been sold all across Mewat. New Hindu girls arrive almost every month. Outlook traced two girls who were sold two years ago and have finally settled down in a village in Rewari. Their "husbands" refuse to admit that these girls were bought, converted to Islam and claim they married them.