Girl recoils at fear of ostracism in Bengal – ‘Tortured, humiliated and brainwashed’

South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, India
Image via Wikipedia

THE TELEGRAPH KOLKATA

New Delhi, Dec. 17: Kidnapped and sold last year and rescued from Delhi yesterday, 16-year-old Bengal girl Yasmin Khatun says she doesn’t want to return home for fear of ostracism. Consumed with shame and misplaced guilt at the “different” life she has led for the past year and a half, Yasmin (name changed) has told police and social workers she has “grave doubts” about ever being accepted by the people of her South 24-Parganas village, Balikhali.“She is both traumatised and humiliated,” said Bengal CID inspector Sarbari Bhattacharya, the leader of the police team that came to Delhi to rescue the Kakdwip girl who was abducted in April last year.

“She told me she doesn’t want to go back to Bengal because she is unsure how she would be received. She wants to remain in Delhi. The traffickers who brought her to Delhi have brainwashed her into thinking that she would be humiliated and taunted by her own people if she ever returns home.”

Tomorrow, the Delhi government’s child welfare committee (CWC) will counsel Yasmin and try to dispel her fears. At some point of time, Yasmin may have to travel at least to Calcutta, whose high court has asked the police to produce her. CWC chairperson Neera Mallick, however, said: “The girl needs counselling at least for the next six months before she is exposed to the world.”

Inspector Bhattacharya said the traffickers would torture Yasmin every time she said she wanted to return home, and had brainwashed her into thinking that after her life in Delhi, she would be an “untouchable” back in Bengal. “She is confused,” Bhattacharya said. “Sometimes she smiles and sometimes she suddenly starts crying.” Over a period of time, the officer said, Yasmin began believing she would never be able to leave and began accepting her life in Delhi. Her tormentors then started tutoring her in etiquette and the social graces, and bought her expensive dresses, to transform the rustic girl into a “lady of society”.

“I was surprised last night when, while having dinner, she suddenly asked for a napkin,” Bhattacharya said. “I never expected that from a village girl. But I quickly realised that the traffickers had been grooming her. The room we rescued her from had an air-conditioner.”Rashi Aditi Ghosh, of the NGO Shakti Vahini, who had accompanied the police on the raid to rescue the girl, too said that Yasmin had told her she didn’t want to “go back to her baba and maa”.

“She said she was disgusted with her father’s foul behaviour. She seemed confused and may not be telling the whole truth.”It’s not clear what Yasmin has against her 61-year-old father Khater Bhisti, a fish seller, but she owes her freedom to her unlettered stepmother Johora Bibi who, faced with initial police apathy, fought a lone crusade to take the battle to the high court. Ghosh said her NGO had helped rescue many trafficked girls and that she did not find Yasmin’s behaviour unusual. Having accepted their new life, especially the “material comforts” that come with it, many of the girls are reluctant to return home.

“Yasmin is ashamed of the life she has been forced to lead but, at the same time, she has grown used to the comforts. In this confused state she may be trying to find excuses not to return home,” Ghosh said. “Many girls we have rescued have behaved in this way, but she needs counselling and someone she can open her heart to.”

For now, Yasmin is staying at Nirmal Chhaya, a home for girls run by the Delhi government’s social welfare department. The police have been asked to provide all the files about Yasmin, including her medical examination report, for tomorrow’s CWC hearing that will help decide if she would be returning home.

In Calcutta, the CID said it would approach the high court on Monday and seek permission to produce Yasmin. It was the court order to produce Yasmin, on a petition from Johora, that had kicked off the hunt for her.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1101218/jsp/frontpage/story_13316787.jsp

 

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