NEW DELHI: Sex sells, or so the bizarre saying goes. Literally, thousands of women from India, Nepal and Bangladesh are sold every year to customers in the Middle East, and the slave markets and sex prisons of IS terrorists in Syria.
New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are the transit points for these sex traffickers. In this web of horror, the predators and facilitators include even airlines and immigration officials. Months before the First Secretary of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in New Delhi, Majid Ashoor, and his Saudi friends were exposed for allegedly gang-raping and assaulting two Nepalese girls in his Gurgaon residence, 24-year-old Nepalese woman Reema (name changed) was sold to a middleman by her parents in Nepal. Her dismal fate would have dumped her in the international network of traffickers to be sold in the booming sex slave market of the Middle East. She, along with six other unfortunate persons, were detained at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on July 27, when they were about to board a flight to Dubai.
As the immigration desks at airports have been alerted about human trafficking and documents as well as travellers are verified and scrutinised, sex agents have started sending women and girls first to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Morocco and Bangkok, and from there, obtained visas for the Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt and Syria. Africa has become the new thriving slave market for these girls with buyers coming from Tanzania and Kenya.
Investigations into l’affaire Majid revealed a bigger network, involving two Air India employees — Manish Gupta and Kapil Kumar — who issued boarding passes. In February 2014, Delhi Police and CISF rescued 76 Nepalese girls travelling to Dubai from the clutches of traffickers.
Sources said it is most likely that they would be sold again to the highest bidder because they are promised lucrative jobs abroad, which would help them escape poverty and misery. On September 2, R&AW issued an alert to Delhi Police about Bangladeshi girls being trafficked from New Delhi to Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. “An India-based contact reached out on August 31 to his Bangladesh-based female associate and informed that he has ‘managed’ the necessary liaisons in Delhi through which he would be able to obtain visas for Bangladeshis for Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Dubai,” the alert said.
Central agencies had alerted the Delhi Police, Bureau of Immigration and airport officials about the sex trade racket.
A senior police officer from Nepal is visiting Delhi to meet with Indian security agencies with details of girls missing from his country over the past two years and who are suspected to have been sent to West Asian countries by Delhi-based traffickers.
In May, Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau shared information with Indian agencies that girls and women were being trafficked to Syria and sold to IS terrorists as “sex slaves”. The Nepal police agencies also said the women were trafficked through India, especially Delhi.
The Reema case led to further revelations that more Nepalese girls were brought to Delhi and given accommodation in Mahipalpur. The police on July 25 conducted a raid and arrested two Nepalese agents, Vishnu Tamang and Daya Ram. Twenty-one Nepalese girls and women aged between 20 and 35 were rescued. They were to leave for Dubai.
The arrested agents said that in the last two months, they had trafficked more than 700 women to West Asian countries for Rs 5,000 a person as commission.
Last year, police rescued 235 women, while in 2013 the number was 160, including 43 from Nepal. In 2012, a total of 185 women and girls were rescued, of whom 42 were from Nepal.
Shockingly, no database is maintained by any of the agencies. So far this year, the police have arrested 62 human traffickers, including eight women, from Delhi. Last year, 199 were arrested, including 31 women. In 2013, the figure was 286 arrests, which included 40 women.
The figures clearly suggest that Delhi Police has gone soft on human traffickers in the last two years. A senior Delhi Police officer said, “It is very tough to detect girls who are more than 18 and are being trafficked to Middle East countries, since they leave the country with valid work permits.”
With time, the traffickers have outsmarted the security agencies. Only novice agents send their prey abroad directly.
There is no direct flight to West Asian countries from Kathmandu. “Emigration Clearance from the office of Protector of Emigrants is required for 18 countries - the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand, Iraq (emigration banned),” said a senior Delhi Police officer.
There is another curious fact. The girls who fetch the highest prices, come from Melchi village and a Sindhupal Chowk town, about 100 km from Kathmandu. The doe eyed, fair-skinned girls from Melchi belong to the Tawang Gurung caste, and are in great demand.
A document, in possession of Express, shows details of Nepalese girls rescued from various parts of India.
The tribal areas of Gumla, Lohardaga, Khunti and Simdega of Jharkhand and Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Malda, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal are the hubs of this fast-growing criminal enterprise.
Some big-time traffickers have tied up with hotels and bedsits in West Asian cities, while some of them even own property to enable prospective victims to get work visas.
Investigators said the mushrooming of illegal placement agencies also played a key role in the human trafficking industry. As discovered in the Majid rape case, a lot of the trafficking was done by placement agencies that were fronts for organised crime syndicates.
In Delhi, 462 placement agencies are registered with the government, but more than 1,000 of them are running illegally. They operate from one-room offices in unauthorised colonies. Their targets are victims from poor families. Once the girls fall into their trap, they are tortured and forced to have sex with hundreds of men until they are “broken”.
“Strangely, 75 per cent of traffickers are nicknamed Raju or Raja, whether the girls being trafficked from a remote Nepal village or from Jharkhand,” says a Delhi police officer.