Krishnagar, March 22: Julie and Durga might have been little Indian princesses.
Instead, 10-year-old Julie may be in transit from Nadia to some bar in Bihar to be a dancing girl, sold by her mother two days ago for Rs 5,000.
Deepali Basak was planning to sell her 13-year-old elder daughter, Durga, too, to the flesh trade to escape grinding poverty at home when she was caught today.
Forty-year-old Deepali, of Phulia in Shantipur, about 70 km from Calcutta, was beaten up by neighbours when they learnt of her intention.
Husband Joygopal Basak, a rickshawpuller, overheard this morning his wife's conversation with Asha Boral, his son's mother-in-law, and realised that the two women had sold Julie to the same flesh trade two days ago.
'I knew that they had packed off my younger sister to Bihar for money, but I could not protest as those involved were my mother and mother-in-law. My wife also asked me to keep quiet because we needed the money,' said Sadhan, 22, Deepali and Joygopal's son, who is married to Asha's daughter Pinki.
Asha and three other women were arrested on the charge of girl trafficking, said the additional superintendent of police, Biswarup Ghosh.
Joygopal, who earns Rs 30 to 40 a day, had become suspicious after Deepali told him that Julie had been sent to work in a hospital in Bihar.
When he confronted the two women, they broke down and admitted that Julie had been taken to Bihar to work in a bar as a dancing girl. Joygopal then called his neighbours.
Thrashed by angry villagers, Deepali and Asha confessed that they had sold Julie for Rs 5,000.
The women would have been lynched but for the intervention of CPM activists who informed police.
The villagers demolished a country liquor shop, blaming the drinking habits of some of the people there for the abject poverty that rules in about 50 households.
According to the police, Joygopal, too, spent a large part of his earnings every day at the liquor shop.
The police arrested the two women and later picked up from the same locality Kalpana Das, who had also allegedly sold her 14-year-old daughter Shephali and 12-year-old niece Sandhya a month ago.
The fourth arrested woman, Alaka, is a resident of Raigunj in North Dinajpur, having links with the racket.
'It's tragic that mothers had to sell their daughters because of poverty. We have come to know from the women the villagers grilled today that the girls had been sold either to dance in bars or end up in brothels. We have requested the police to bust the racket,' said Mrinal Ghosh, a local CPM leader.
'First, we have to rescue the girls from Bihar,' a police officer said.