Bihar police attempts to disrupt anti-Trafficking NGO-Apne Aap’s work in Araria
Police arrests anti-trafficking activist, files station diaries against founder and state head, confines 15-year-old daughter of Apne Aap staff member in police lock up
NHRC ask DGP Bihar to issue report in four weeks, NLSA asks Purnea District Judge to report action
New Delhi, June 20 : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the DGP Bihar to submit a report within four weeks on the arbitrary arrest and subsequent humiliation by the Araria police of anti-trafficking activist and Apne Aap staff member, Mohammed Kalam on 1st June, 2012.
The arrest of Mohammed Kalam is one of a series of attempts by the police to disrupt the work of Anti-Trafficking NGO, Apne Aap in Araria, Bihar.
- On 2nd June, the DSP Araria filed a station diary against the Founder of Apne Aap, Ruchira Gupta and State Coordinator, Manish Jha saying that they threatened him.
- On 11th February, the police picked up 15-year-old Kajal Khatoon, the daughter of Fatima, a staff member of Apne Aap, near midnight on the pretext of “rescuing” her and kept her in the Forbesgunge Thana all night with no food, water, blanket and no female escort. She was not even allowed to meet her mother;
- In May 2012, the police subjected an Apne Aap employee to search and intimidation in his hotel room;
- On 2nd June, the SP Araria openly flouted a Supreme Court order and paraded Mohammed Kalam with handcuffs and ropes around his wrists in front of the media.
- The brother-in-law of Mohammed Kalam was stopped by the police while driving home on his motorcycle and harassed on the pretext of checking his documents.
Since 2009, Apne Aap has managed to get 51 traffickers arrested, rescued 25 girls and enrolled 24 girls from the red-light district in school. It has organized 110 women to close down brothels in the homes they were living in, leading to the Rampur red-light area shrinking from 72 brothels to 15 and Khawaspur from 17 to 1.
Mohammed Kalam is the Chief Investigator of Apne Aap Women Worldwide in Bihar. Last December, he informed us that his investigations revealed that girls are being bought and sold in the Kali Mela, which comes to Forbesgunge every January. On the basis of his investigation, we filed a complaint with the police. Subsequently on 11th February, the local police conducted a raid around midnight but did not invite any Apne Aap employee to accompany the police force for this raid. In fact, no female social worker was taken on the raid. However, in the subsequent FIR, the SP wrote that an Apne Aap employee, Ms Soumya Pratheek accompanied him on the raid. Ms. Pratheek objected to this and wrote a letter to get her name removed from the FIR as she was not there first of all and secondly the raid violated many human rights norms. Twenty-four girls were rescued in the raid. Inexplicably a staff member’s daughter was picked up in the raid, while curiously some of the other rescued girls were either handed back to their exploiters or to a shelter in neighboring District Purnea about a 100 km away, instead of the short-stay home in Araria itself.
Strangely, one of the rescued girls, Sony, kept in the Purnea Shelter filed a complaint before a magistrate under Section 164 Cr PC, three and a half months after her rescue suggesting that she may have been subjected to duress or inducement in the long interim period. Secondly, she named someone called Kalam and three others. No corroborative evidence was collected by the police to verify if this was the same Kalam. It is also a point to note that the police have only arrested Mohammed Kalam while the others accused in the FIR are still at large.
Mohammed Kalam was ironically arrested on a statement made by a girl who was rescued on an Apne Aap complaint based on an investigation that was led by Sri Kalam. It is not possible that a person with 8 years of experience in anti-trafficking will file a complaint against himself.
Mohammed Kalam holds an LLb degree. He is from the OBC Nat community and was educated by his sister who was pushed into prostitution. He is fighting against sex-trafficking in honour of his mother and two sisters. They educated him so that one day he could stand up against this injustice. He was nominated for the US International Visitor’s Programme in 2011 and named The Week Magazine’s Anti-Trafficking Hero in 2004 and was a resource person for the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime anti-trafficking training programme to sensitize Bihar police.
About Apne Aap : Apne Aap Women Worldwide is a grassroots Indian organization working to empower girls and women to resist and end sex trafficking in brothels, red light districts, slums and villages in Bihar, West Bengal, Delhi and Maharashtra.
About Ruchira Gupta : Ruchira Gupta was inspired to found Apne Aap after making her Emmy Award-winning documentary, ‘The Selling of Innocents’. Ruchira has campaigned tirelessly to promote the leadership of survivors in the global fight to end trafficking – bringing groups of survivors to speak before the UN General Assembly in 2008 and 2009.