Facets of human trafficking in Manipur
Contd from previous issue
I found that trafficking is about the neglect of girls and women from marginalised tribes and from a State considered important only because of it’s strategic international geographical border with Myanmar.
Tribal parents and relatives do not question the intentions of the job recruiting agents, especially when they are local acquaintances, and even encourage their children to take advantage of the offers made by the agents. Ironically, agents who charge fees are the most trusted. When the agents charge fees, parents and other family members believe that they are genuine. Once their family members are gone, it is hard for the families to pursue the matter with the police even if they learn that their relatives are being exploited.
Given the close-knit tribal society, rescued victims are reluctant to share their stories, fearing social stigma, and they attempt to hide their identity from strangers, including the researcher. The sociological framework of stigma is relevant in our understanding of re-integration of trafficked survivors with their families and society as it shed light on how they dealt with shame and social exclusion. Erving Goffman’s theory of stigma provided a better understanding of how trafficked survivors encountered multiple traumas due to stigmatization and finds it challenging to cope in their everyday lives.
More than a dozen girls and boys belonging to a particular tribal community were rescued from a shelter home in June 2009 from Andhra Pradesh by University of Hyderabad research scholars and Naga Christian Fellowship Pastor. The rescued children were promised free education with boarding facility by the local agents (couple). After reaching their destination, they were deceived and not provided nutritious food and quality education. The Andhra Pradesh Police officials raided the shelter home after a tip off and rescued the children. The police personnel and Naga youth accompanied these rescued children to their home State by train and re-integrated them with their respective families after counselling.
Another story of a girl who worked in a popular spa in Hyderabad reveals a subtle form of deception, exploitation, trauma and shame that the trafficked survivors encounter in their everyday life. The police officials raided a popular spa in Hyderabad after a tip off of cross-massaging. The police rescued several Thai girls including girls from North East India in 2017 at Hyderabad. One girl from Manipur was six months pregnant at that time. They were kept in Prajwala Shelter home (NGO) managed by Padma Shri Awardee Sunita Krishnan in Hyderabad for a couple of months. The NGO staff counselled them psychologically and provided their basic needs. After the Court gave a clearance, the rescued girl was re-integrated with her family in early 2018 and the other girl from Manipur had a Court marriage with her boyfriend who was her client in the spa. It reveals the pattern of deception and exploitation which traumatises the survivors.
In the context of violence, I would like to narrate a story of 18 year old Mary (name changed) who was a victim of attempted rape in 2015. Mary’s sister is married to a driver of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who hails from Karnakata. They live in a rented apartment in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Her sister had gone back home for delivery and left Mary with her husband to do domestic chores. In the meanwhile, Mary’s brother-in-law and his friend were intoxicated and wore mask and they attempted to rape her at midnight. She screamed and managed to run out of the apartment and her neighbours dialled the police and the two men were arrested.
Mary was also kept in the police custody in the Children’s shelter home in Erragada, Hyderabad for four days. She was released from the shelter home by the Naga leaders. Pastor of the Naga Christian fellowship, Hyderabad, myself and a Rongmei Naga youth helped her to re-integrate with her family in her native village.
The above stories reveal that trafficked survivors were trafficked due to the poor economic situation and lack of opportunities in their respective villages and towns. The main objectives of the trafficked victims are to have a better life since they leave for education and for jobs.
I would like to conclude my advocacy for the creation of new opportunities for girls and women in villages and towns, establishment of quality and affordable educational institutions like schools and colleges, imparting the traditional understanding of family and kinship relations, promoting traditional practices like music, art, weaving and handicraft, organic farming, horticulture, entrepreneurship and negotiate for market viability like the other dominant communities to curb human trafficking. We need to nurture and build the village eco-system as self-sufficient. Lastly, I would like to recommend the village councils, Churches, youth clubs and women associations to conduct massive awareness campaigns on human trafficking and set up Anti-Human Trafficking Youth Clubs in every village and town.
Notes: The names have been changed in order to protect the identity of the trafficked survivors.
* The writer is Professor of Sociology and Head, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy, University of Hyderabad (UoH), Hyderabad. She has served as the Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology in UoH from 2000-2009 & she is one of the pioneers in establishing the Centre for Women’s Studies, UoH in 2007. In 2013-14, she served as the Visiting Fellow in University of Iowa, USA. She is the elected Member, Managing Committee of Indian Sociological Society (ISS) (2019-2025). She has served as Convenor of RC-04 Migration & Diaspora Studies of ISS (2016-2019). She has been an active member of the International Sociological Association. She is the National Resource Person for UGC Capacity Building of Women Managers in Higher Education. She has travelled to UK, USA, Europe, Canada, the Middle East and South Asia to deliver Keynote address, invited to lectures and Conference papers in various Universities.