Or was she? “No, I don’t want to go back home. Neither do I want to meet anyone from my family. I had a good life in Delhi and I don’t want to get back to the horrible life at home,” Tahira retorted, when asked if she missed her family. She had just got off the Rajdhani Express at Sealdah.
Twenty months after she was trafficked from her village Balikhal in rural Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas, and sold off in Delhi, there are no easy answers to the Tahira Khatun riddle. Members of Shakti Vahini, the NGO that helped rescue her, and the police have said repeatedly that she has been brainwashed by those who had trafficked her.
“It seems that Tahira has been brainwashed by the traffickers, who’ve convinced her that she has no life back home. But now, she seems to have started understanding a few things. The girl needs help and proper counselling by professionals,” said Rishi Kant, an activist of Shakti Vahini.
Tahira was candid about the fact that she missed her Delhi life. “Initially, I was afraid and apprehensive. But I gradually gained confidence. I was given good food, clothes and a nice play to stay. I was happy there,” the 16-year-old said. When she went missing on April 15, 2009, no one including herself thought her life would take such a turn. According to Tahira, Kalam, the man who lured her from home, promised to bail her out of poverty and the miserable life she was leading. She had no idea that she would be sold off.
Finally, when a team of Delhi Police and state CID found her in Delhi’s Begumpura on December 16, Tahira had accepted her new life. Now, even her family is not sure if they should meet her. Though they wanted to come to Kolkata, they were allegedly discouraged by CID officials. Fearing repercussions, they stayed away from the city.
“Tahira’s mother Samiran Biwi has become all the more restless after she came to know that Tahira has been traced. She has been begging us to take her to Tahira. But we are helpless. We will do that only when CID officials instruct us,” said Tahira’s stepmother Johura Biwi.