SRINAGAR: Sameena (not her real name) grew up in an impoverished village in a Muslim family in Rajasthan. At 17, a friend of a friend told her she could get a well-paid job as a waitress in Delhi and learn hair-dressing on the side.
She was introduced to an agent, Raju, who paid for her travel. She arrived in Delhi with another man and finally landed up at a house where two other women had been brought on the same promise.
Very soon, she discovered her job was to offer her body to men round the clock to men for sex. When she objected, Raju, her minder, beat her up and raped her.
He, Raju, warned her that she will be injected with HIV and then she will have to live with the disease for the rest of her life. He then left her locked up to “think things over”. He also reminded her that she owed him Rs 50,000 to cover the cost of her travel and living and said her family at home would suffer if she did not earn that money quickly.
The other women advised her that if she went to the authorities she would be sent back to her own village at once and she knew the Rs 50,000 rupees would then be demanded from her family. Sameena felt she was left with no choice but to agree to prostitute herself at least till she repaid “the debt”.
“I was confident that one of the men who came for sex would listen to my story and help me,” she told this reporter.
However, she soon found that she was not allowed to stay long enough in any town or city to find her way around and get to know people. Each week, she had to move to a different location. Furthermore, she found that the men who came looking for sex had no interest in her story.
“They made it clear that they simply wanted good value for their money. They wanted me to pretend to be excited by the sex and to enjoy it. Many of them also demanded kinky sex and sex without protection. Whenever I failed to give them what they demanded they complained to the pimp and he would beat me up,” she said.
In August 2012, police raided the apartment and all girls, including Sameena, were taken into custody.
“I was so scared that I cried before police to release me. They kept us in a lock up for one week. Other girls then told me they have no evidence against us and they will release us soon. We were released that week. I have no place to go. We all returned to same place and our pimp told us that we have to relocate as police is looking after him,” she said.
Raju, who hails from Old Delhi, took her to West Bengal and then to Jammu and finally to Kashmir in 2013. Here, another accomplice of Raju, a man named Riyaz from Anantnag, met them.
Riyaz had a clientele who pay him well, Sameena said. They stayed in a hotel in Srinagar for a few days and then moved to a small apartment in Shivpora. When Sameena protested on a few occasions, the duo warned her that approaching police will only make things worse for her as “they have good relations with police here.”
“Some customers were violent during the act. I feel imprisoned both physically and out of fear. I see no escape. I feel depressed and suspect I might be infected with HIV as a result of unprotected sex,” said Sameena, who is tall, green-eyed and pretty. Marks of violence are visible on her face.
In the Valley, she said, the customers pay her between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 for a night.
“My clients are rich and elite. We usually meet in a hotel. I became pregnant four times and the pimp took me to a doctor for abortion. I am living like a dead who has no hope. Although I earn well and I support my family but I don’t know how to get out of this trade. They think I am working in a salon. I am in dilemma. I am earning well but this is something which I don’t want to continue,” Sameena said.
Raju now plans to take her to Dubai to “earn more bucks”. He takes 50% of the earnings as commission.
Raju and other agents she has come across move from one state to other to lure more girls, she said, adding a 16-year-old girl from Tamil Nadu and a 20-year-old woman from a poor family in Kupwara were brought to the city.
They frequently change their apartment in Srinagar, fearing the locals might get suspicious.
“In one apartment the owner came to know about our trade and he threatened that he will report to the police. Riyaz somehow managed to convince the owner that they were running a business firm and they have to meet the rich clients during the night. Then we changed the apartment and moved to another place,” Sameena said.
Since 2012, the Anti Human Trafficking Cell in Srinagar has registered four cases of human trafficking. According to IGP crime Kashmir, human trafficking is less in Kashmir as compared to other states.
In 2014, India reported a surge of nearly 39% in the number of cases of human trafficking. Human trafficking cases in India rose 92% over six years between 2009 and 2014. However, these cases declined 55% between 2005 and 2009.
As per data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of registered human trafficking cases has increased by 38.3% over five years from 2,848 in 2009 to 3,940 in 2013.
As many as 8,099 people were reported to be trafficked across India in 2014.
West Bengal is the hub of human trafficking in India. It had the maximum human trafficking cases (669) amongst all states in India, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The Home Ministry has also launched a web portal on anti-human trafficking, and the Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing Ujjawala, a programme that focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of victims.