The teenager after being rescued in Delhi on Tuesday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 24: At night, he raped her. In daytime, the middle-aged man would smother the 13-year-old with gifts.
This went on for a month and a half till the girl was rescued today from a shanty in Delhi, scared to go back to her home in Bengal but smiling as she played with the plastic spoons she had just used to have lunch.
“This girl has no idea what he did to her body,” said Subrata Panigrahi, a social worker with Chetna Welfare Society, an NGO that played a part in the rescue.
The victim was a student of Class VII in a school in Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas, when Ilias Ali, her 51-year-old tormenter, came to stay with her family. Ali, now absconding, had apparently quarrelled with his in-laws who live in the same village as the girl’s family.
The Delhi-based scrap dealer, who has two more trafficking cases against him in Kakdwip, soon started working on the impressionable young girl, telling her he loved her. “He was nice to my parents and to me. He stayed for a month with us,” the girl said, twirling a strand of her thick, jet-black hair. “At night, he would come to me and say nice things like he loved me.”
Social workers from Kakdwip, who accompanied the teenager’s father to Delhi, say girls from the district, often from the poorest families, are lured to the capital with the promise of marriage and a better life.
The girl doesn’t think she was in love with Ali, who could face imprisonment for life under the stringent Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act. “I came with him to Delhi because he threatened to harm my family,” she said after her rescue.
Once in Delhi, her ordeal started. “I think I was under his spell. He beat me, but the next minute he was nice to me and I forgot everything. When I was in my senses, I protested, but he wouldn’t stop. He gave me some pills,” the girl said.
“I watched a lot of TV here in the mornings. He bought me a salwar suit for Rs 3,000. I just want to go home,” said the teen, who had at first refused to accompany her father home, afraid he would scold her.
She wore jeans and a bright blue top her 37-year-old father had bought for her when he accompanied local NGO officials to the shanty. It was her father who suspected something was wrong when both Ali and his daughter disappeared at the same time.
“In the 300 cases that I have seen in the district, 95 per cent are girls between 13 and 15 who think they will have a fancy marriage and live in luxury in the capital. Traffickers are trained in luring young girls,” said Panigrahi, the social worker with Chetna.
“Also, superstition plays an important role here. They actually believe that a pill can make their intestines swell and lead to death if they don’t follow the orders of the person giving the pill.”
The girl’s father, who sells footwear on the streets of Kakdwip, is thinking of relocating to another village, but his daughter appeared oblivious of what she might face once she goes back to their village. As she lunched with her father, she asked him to pack some of the plastic spoons they were using so she could play with them at home.
“How can I be angry with her? It wasn’t her fault. There was something the man gave her. It has happened before in the area. She has no idea that what that man did could ruin her life,” said her father.
Activists of Shakti Vahini, which has been working extensively in South 24-Parganas, say such “horror stories” abound. “Many girls in Bengal are lured by the idea of love,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini. “When they are trapped, they are drugged with some muscle relaxant and then sold off. In this case, the rescue was swift.”