Bikky Biswakarma (face covered) on the Kurseong court campus on Thursday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Nov. 25: A 27-year-old with multiple identities who managed to marry almost one girl a month for five years and sell them to brothels in Pune and Mumbai has been arrested by Darjeeling police.
The arrest of Bikky Biswakarma alias Bishal Chhetri alias Prakash Rai from his Kalchini residence in Jalpaiguri district yesterday has helped police trace at least nine girls so far. The police believe they will be able to find the whereabouts of another “seven to eight” girls.
Social workers think the arrest could help track down around 60 victims.
Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said: “The modus operandi was simple. He would propose young girls especially from tea gardens and remote areas, marry them and then sell them off to brothels in Pune and Mumbai. Since many of the victims were poor and uneducated, hardly anybody filed complaints.”
The police chief said each girl would be sold for anything between Rs 70,000 and Rs 1 lakh. “Biswakarma was a smart operator. He used to change his locations frequently. We have found that he had bases in Bidhannagar and Bagdogra (in Siliguri subdivision), Kurseong and Darjeeling,” said Singh.
The police started working on Biswakarma’s trail after complaints from Mirik and Panighata in Kurseong subdivision and, more recently, from a family at Singtom tea garden in Darjeeling.
The Darjeeling girl has been rescued from Pune. Biswakarma used to pose either as a contractor or an army man. “In most cases, he pretended to be an army man who had come home on holiday and wanted to get married before returning to his post. We believe he was the kingpin of the racket and had women accomplices who introduced themselves as his relatives to the girls’ families,” said Prabhat Pathak, the coordinator of Siliguri-based Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra, an NGO which works for the rescue of trafficked women.
Pathak cited an instance when a victim from Sonada in Kurseong was lured into marriage within seven days of her acquaintance with Biswakarma.
Kanchenjungha Kendra had been trying to track him down for sometime. “I even managed to speak to him once on his cellphone. He sounded extremely polite and was confident and convincing,” said Pathak.
Biswakarma mostly used the SIM cards of the victims to trap his next prey. “This year alone we rescued around six-seven girls from Pune. They were all directly sold by the kingpin. He used to take the girls either to Calcutta or Patna before boarding the train,” said Pathak. “On the way to Pune, he used to tell the girls that he has a relative in Pune and used to make the brothel owners speak to the victims to convince them that there was no foul play.” On reaching the destination, Biswakarma would disappear.
Both the police and social workers believe that the gang used to randomly call up cellphone numbers. He would strike up a conversation and pick on his potential victim, said Pathak.
Biswakarma’s arrest and the subsequent findings have busted the myth that trafficking usually takes place in closed tea gardens of the Dooars. “Our centre has the names of 60 missing girls, of whom 30 per cent are from the hills,” said Pathak.
A police officer said it was difficult to crack the case as the complaints were far between and the families did not realise that the girls had been trafficked. “They had seen the groom and approved the marriage. They did not find anything fishy.”
Singh said the police have got the names of a few people who might be Biswakarma’s accomplices.
Biswakarma was today produced in the court of the subdivisional judicial magistrate in Kurseong which approved an identification parade requested by the police. The families of the victims in Kurseong will have to identify the accused during the parade. “After this, we will seek a remand,” said Singh.