Rescued girl still yearns for Delhi life


JANUARY 29,2011




KOLKATA: It has been almost six weeks since Tahira Khatun was rescued from Delhi and brought to Kolkata. But the trafficked girl who had raised eyebrows by refusing to return home to her parents in Balikhal village in South 24-Parganas has not mellowed down a bit. She is desperate to go back to her “Mummy and Papa” in Delhi — the couple who are allegedly part of the gang involved in the trafficking of girls for a sleaze racket.

The 15-year-old girl is lodged at Sneha, a shelter for destitute girls run by NGO Sanlaap in the southern fringes of Kolkata. But Tahira yearns for the fast life back in Delhi and still hopes that her “Mummy and Papa” would come to “rescue” her one day. “Initially she refused to interact with other inmates. But now she talks to them sometimes. She is still in trauma with conflicting ideas disturbing her,” said Sanlaap senior programme coordinator Tapati Bhowmick.

Tahira was rescued from Delhi on December 16 by a joint team of West Bengal CID, Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO. She had gone missing from her Kakdwip home in April 2009. Tahira’s stepmother Johura Biwi had moved high court in July 2009 after police failed to trace her. The court had then directed the state police DG to trace the girl and produce her in court.

Tahira had allegedly been lured out of home by Kalam, a resident of Kolkata, with the promise that he would get her out of poverty. He took her to Delhi and sold her off to another trafficker, Azhar. The latter, in turn, sold Tahira to Kadir. Kadir is the one Tahira refers to as ‘Papa’. It was his residence in Begumpara from where the girl was rescued, though Kadir managed to give police the slip.

In Kadir’s house, Tahira was pampered with all the materialistic pleasures that were only a distant dream for the girl who lived in abject poverty back home. All it took for the girl to accept her ‘new life’ was good food, expensive cellphones, branded clothes and accessories, ATM cards, movies at plexes and lavish birthday parties. “Earlier the ‘madams’ would torture trafficked girls to tame them. But now they win the girls’ confidence by fulfilling their materialistic demands. This works great on these girls who come from extremely needy families,” explained Bhowmick.

Tahira has been on counselling since she was brought to Sneha. She constantly demands that she be allowed to speak to her “Mummy and Papa”. She was allowed to do that through CID officials on a few occasions. During such conversations, she was apparently promised that she would soon be taken back to Delhi. But recently, the traffickers changed their SIM card, possibly on getting a hint that they were under CID’s watch.

“Tahira is probably realising that her Mummy-Papa had made false promises of taking her back to Delhi. At the same time, she lives in the dream of going back to her life in Delhi. This conflict seems to be disturbing her,” said Bhowmick. A good development is for Sanlaap to have found that the girl has an aptitude for dance. She was sent to the American Centre recently for a dance workshop. She came back much happier. The home is thinking of engaging her in dance classes.

Even as Tahira’s family is looking forward to taking her home, she is adamant about not going back. Johura went to Sneha recently with Tahira’s mother Samiran Biwi. But they were not allowed to meet her. “Since the girl is unwilling to meet them, we cannot force her. We have told them to obtain a court order for meeting her,” said Sanlaap executive director and also state child welfare committee member, Indrani Sinha.


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