24 March 2011
I take this opportunity to thank you for all the support and strength that you have extended to Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and me in condemning the brutal attack on our activists by traffickers and child slave masters during the raid and rescue operation in Delhi last week.
After detailed groundwork and meticulous planning, I along with ten activists from BBA, Area Magistrate, Labour Inspectors and a few Policemen carried out a raid on some garment sweatshops on 17thMarch 2011. Minutes after we reached the spot, a group of violent traffickers and errant employers attacked us. Hundred others joined the mob and started manhandling us. When one of the goons standing at a distance pulled out a gun, few activists rushed towards me to ward me off the danger. Four of them were seriously injured and had to be rushed to the hospital.
Ironically, the Magistrate fled along with the Police and Labour Inspectors leaving us behind to face the local mafia & goons all by ourselves. This disappearance raises serious doubts about their involvement with the miscreants. Somehow we managed to rescue 22 children, some of them as young as seven, while 20 others were snatched back by the goons.
Next day, BBA filed an extra ordinary petition at Delhi High Court. The Chief Justice took this up as a matter of urgency and summoned Commissioner of Police, Labour Commissioner, Divisional Commissioner of Revenue and Law & Order and all relevant top officials directing them to be physically present at the Court on the next working day to explain why the law enforcement agencies could not live up to their responsibility in upholding the rule of law and protecting the children and defenders of human rights. Meanwhile 8 attackers were nabbed by the Police over the weekend.
The Delhi High Court subsequently pulled up the Government Agencies for their inaction against child labour and directed Delhi Police to arrest all the traffickers/ anti social elements within three weeks and rescue all the child labourers who were identified by Bachpan Bachao Andolan but were snatched away. The High Court also ordered that all rescue operations would be carried out under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police. The court also directed for formation of a state level steering committee on child labour for effective coordination among various enforcement agencies.
All the rescued children are at Mukti Ashram, BBA’s rehabilitation centre at the moment and enjoying their freedom, while BBA is making arrangements for their safe repatriation. Mohd. Aqeel an eight year old boy who was lured by an agent from his village in Bihar nearly 800 kilometers from Delhi under false promises is happy to break free from the clutches of bonded labour. He is enjoying watching cartoons, playing cricket and making friends at Mukti Ashram. Last Sunday, while playing Holi, India’s great festival of colours Aqeel told me “I want to become a teacher, as there is a shortage of teachers in my village”.
Your solidarity and support means a lot to us. Our activists are being treated for the injuries and are expected to recover soon. With your cooperation and best wishes, we have always been able to overcome obstacles and stand tall in our fight against child slavery.
During the last 30 years of my humble endeavour, I have strongly believed that Freedom is the most precious gift of God, thus Natural and Divine, whereas slavery is a crime invented and committed by man, so is a Wrong. The fight to change this Wrong into Right is definitely dangerous but Victory is certain.