BY RASHMI DROLIA PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA
RAIPUR: She may not be a decorated encounter cop or a trained undercover agent, but she displayed unusual grit and gumption to bust organised trafficking rings at vulnerable patches of Delhi to earn the sobriquet of Chhattisgarh’s ‘Mardani’. After nabbing 15 traffickers and rescuing 20 missing children from Delhi’s hellholes, she’s become a blockbuster star in the state.
In a cat-and-mouse chase with entrenched child traffickers and prostitution kingpins, it was a mindboggling race through maze of accomplices for sub-inspector Mallika Banerjee of the anti-human trafficking cell. And she played a role of a super cop in a bigger-than-life rerun of the Bollywood thriller Mardani in real life.
Disguised as salesgirl, selling body massagers on the street, facing life threats and spurning big bribe money to withdraw investigation, SI Mallika Banerjee, 30, struggled to meet Supreme Court deadline to trace missing children. When she began her Mission Delhi, she only had a tip-off. She shares with TOI how a small rescue operation turned into a month-long gruelling mission.
“On reaching Delhi on November 13 with a five-member team, I had to raid placement agencies of Nirmala and Guddu at Motinagar and Shakurpur. As it was part of protocol to conduct simultaneous raids, we needed to do recce, gather intelligence and keep vigil outside their offices,” Mallika said.
Meanwhile, kingpin Guddu got a wind of raids and released two kids of Bagbahar region and sent them back with four agents. She suspected involvement of Delhi police for tipping off Guddu on raids. But Mallika was constantly keeping watch and kept Jashpur SP, Jitendra Meena in the loop. “We rescued two kids and arrested four agents from a train on Ambikapur-Sitapur stretch.”
While Nirmala was an easy catch, documents seized from her office revealed that children were sold for Rs 30000-35000 with monthly fixed payment of Rs 5000.
From Guddu’s office, Mallika rescued a 12-year-old girl of Jharkhand who was locked in a dank room. Surveillance of Guddu’s phone showed he was in Champaran in Bihar. He had wriggled out of clutches of police .
“It was 12.40 am when I received an anonymous threat call, asking me to leave Delhi. ‘Madam, aap muje nahi jante, meri pahunch mantriyon tak hai. Mahila ho, nikal lo, warna aapke saath kya hoga aap soch nahi sakti’ (You have no idea I am in touch with influential persons and politicians, better leave the place or be ready for the worst),” the caller said.
Mallika was unfazed, persistent. She called Guddu again and finally the call went through. She persuaded him to meet her and help find few missing children, assuring him he won’t be touched. Guddu returned from his Bihar hideout and called her. They were to meet at a parking lot at Daryaganj.
Mallika’s team was prepared in civil dress when Guddu’s aide approached Mallika and said “Guddu is innocent, stop chasing him.” Guddu suddenly appeared from shadows with a cash-loaded briefcase and offered Rs 10 lakh. “Take this and leave. I will handle other senior officers,” Guddu told Mallika. The cops in civvies pounced upon him and arrested him. Guddu had been trafficking children from several states since 2001.
Sales Girl Disguise
Hunting down Hamida, another trafficker, was the toughest. Mallika disguised as a sales girl, sold body massagers at Aman Vihar area for five days. She gathered inputs from households and finally zeroed in on Hamida’s hideout.
“I made excuses, asked for water to get inside her home and arrested her with documents of girls trafficked. Several arrests followed,” said Mallika. It was first experience for this woman officer in tough situations, saying she suddenly felt more connected to those innocent kids.
Jashpur superintendent of police Jitendra Meena said, “Meticulous planning, multiple recces and technical support were required. The operation was closely monitored by us and every success boosted team’s confidence.”
Delhi based NGO Shakti Vahini that supported the mission right from first day said, “AHTU in Chhattisgarh led by ADG Rajeev Srivastava and OSD PN Tiwari certainly create a forward impact on action against child trafficking, as they assure proper training to officials like Mallika who perform courageously even in odd situations.”