Having reported a couple of issues on human trafficking earlier, this Baishak first I was proposed to report a case of human trafficking in Nawalparasi district.
Two notorious traffickers were being booked and I had no second thoughts about agreeing to a south-bound journey.
The readiness was not just out of the zeal to cover an exclusive story for the TKP, but also out of my curiosity to see the beastly faces of human traffickers, ones that I would have perceived as either villains of Bollywood movies or antagonists of novels and some popular TV soaps.
The next day, a red SUV picked me from Baneshwor for the journey. We were four passengers, including the shy driver.
Bhaskar Karki (the guy who had called me the pervious day) introduced me to his colleague Shailaja CM, a South-Indian woman working in Nepal for the anti-human-trafficking agency Esther Benjamin Memorial Trust Foundation (EBMTF).
Shailaja, in her typical south-Indian accent, explained the case to me in Nepali. Bhaskar Dai in the front seat would at times turn back to add to what Shailaja said.
The case was about 20-year-old Lok Maya Sinjali, who was trafficked to the Indian city of Mumbai and then to Saudi Arabia by a Nawalparasi local–Raju Chhetri–with the help of a local schoolteacher, Yam Gurung. Chhetri, as I was told, sold Lok Maya for IRs 45,000 to a Mumbai-based trafficking agency, which later jetted the girl to the Middle East. As both the accused had admitted to their crime, EBMTF officials were about to file a case against them at the District Police Office (DPO).
By the time I got my senses on the matter, we had reached Mugling. Our taste buds were still thriving from the hot jeri-puri-tarkari we had for breakfast at Mugling. We reached the DPO, Nawalparasi, at 10:30 am.
We were asked to be seated in the waiting room until Chhetri, Gurung and Lok Maya’s father Indra Bahadur joined us.
A two-hour wait, and the scenes of some Bhojpuri movies were playing in front of us. I pinched myself twice, to confirm what I had seen. Chhetri and Gurung arrived, ganged up with fellow villagers backing them.
Indra Bahadur was nowhere to be seen, although one hour passed in the hot sun. Just as we started to suspect if the supporters of the accused had abducted Indra Bahadur, the latter arrived, on his old Hercules cycle.
The old wrinkled face of an illiterate father, who was there to demand his daughter’s return, resembled that of a rebel craving for justice.
A heated debate commenced. While the gang of the accused promised to return the girl, if a month’s time was granted, Indra Bahadur’s party would settle for nothing except the criminals’ prosecution.
In the meantime, we were taken to the DSP’s cabin. Looking at the way he responded, I bet the policemen were reluctant to file the case. They were adamant that the girl’s family provide a month’s time to the accused. In the land of lawlessness, who would complicate their business for a trafficked girl?
At the end of the day, it was agreed that one month would be given for the culprits to redeem themselves by bringing the girl back.
The confused father later told me, struggling to hide his tears, that he would be happy to get his daughter back even if it meant amnesty for the culprits.
The father, bearing bewildered cheerfulness, bought us a bottle of jumbo coke. As I quenched my thirst, I realised this was my first date with food after that at Mugling.
It was half past six in the evening and I was starving. We got onto the vehicle and embarked on the way back. Throughout the rest of the journey, I remembered the old face of Indra Bahadur–who had lost his daughter before bidding farewell to his beloved wife, who had died the year before–desperate to see his daughter again.
Published in The Kathmandu Post on SEPT. 06