In 2009, Nayantara (name changed) was a young girl who went missing from the South 24 Paraganas District of West Bengal.
At 16, Nayantara was drugged, beaten up and had her legs broken; she was smart, skilled and the bread earner in the family, yet she went through all of the above. She had an excellent skill set of embroidery; she did intricate designing and sequencing on Indian sari cloth, this served as her ticket to earn for her family. On just another ordinary day, while she was on her way to deliver a customer’s order to their house, she was introduced to a friend of his who promised a more profitable and larger order from her. She was told to visit his house for taking the order and that is when she became a victim of sex trafficking.
People questioned where she had gone and how she had disappeared, but no one had any answers. In rural India where societies can still be very conservative, topics like child trafficking are often ignored. In fact, this lack of awareness is one of the key reasons little girls get trafficked in abundance. It’s not that no one cares, it can be that no one knows.
She woke up in a dark and unknown room. The trafficker had drugged her and taken her on a train to New Delhi. He then sold her to one of the brothel houses in the brawling red-light district of G.B. Road. She felt anxious, scared and disoriented.
She couldn’t recall the order of the events that led her there, and just wanted to get out. When asked about her one-year experience there, just last week, she said: “They hit you. They hurt you. At first, they hit my head hard until it bled and broke my legs. If I didn’t do what they told me to do they would hit me very badly. Whenever I think of them, I am full of anger.”
She was only 16, but being the courageous girl that she was, she protested and screamed to seek for help. However, to her utter disappointment, none of it worked in her favour. Her violators were bigger and stronger than her, and could easily overpower her. She became silent, but still promised herself that she would fight for her freedom and dignity. One of Nayantara’s regular customers was infatuated by her. Largely flattered by her, he let Nayantara use his cell phone to inform her parents about her whereabouts. Fortunately, this led to her being rescued. Fortunately, because many families don’t take back girls who have gone missing.
Today, she is in a much better place and more empowered than she ever was. She is ready to testify against her trafficker who happens to live in her own village. The most excruciatingly painful thing she still has to go through is, watching him everyday, living a guilt-free life, while she has to contain her anger and will never completely be able to leave the shackles of being trafficked and locked up in that room she once was.
On the days she goes to court, she goes undercover, takes a detour and makes sure she’s not recognized. However stronger she may feel now, there is still a vulnerable 16 year old inside of her who is scared.
MISSING is proud of her strength to survive and making a difference by not letting her trafficker go scot-free. We are helping her move forward in whatever ways we can. Our first step is bringing this conversation to a larger audience. Everyone has a stake in this problem and as a community we should be a part of solving it.