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Mass Movement needed to End Human Trafficking

It was inspiring and encouraging when Krishna, a shopkeeper near the bus stand in Murshidabad came to me with tears in his eyes and handed me a piece of paper written - "I have entertained several customers who were accompanied by some young children. But I never knew that this was human trafficking. From now on, I pledge to voice against it and will call the police."

 

The 25 years of struggle of freedom from slavery has given us this experience that the most illicit trade of our times-human trafficking cannot be stopped without a mass movement. Law is important and equally important is the political will substantiated with adequate resources and a prompt and honest enforcement mechanism. But, until and unless the very ordinary people are prepared to say 'NO' to the sale and slavery of children, women and men, complete abolition of this inhuman crime will remain a distant dream.

 

In the past, we had experienced the success of our long marches against child labour and for education in India and across the globe affecting long term policy and practice change besides generating mass awareness. The power of the most sacred voices of the victims of slavery can never remain unnoticed or unheard when they are out on the streets to challenge the violence perpetrated upon them. Same was in the case of our recent march, the South Asian March Against Child Trafficking which started from Kolkata on February 25, 2007 and reached Delhi on March 22, 2007. Some of the young heroes who lead this mass action were  Rakesh, a 12 year-old boy trafficked from Bihar to Punjab and enslaved for 6 years in agriculture; Pushpa, a 14 year-old young girl sold for a mere Rs. 200 (less than $5) from her village in Jharkhand to work in Patna; Meena, trafficked from Dang province in Nepal for child domestic labourer and later in a 'cabin restaurant' in Kathmandu; Najma, a trafficking victim from Dhaka, Bangladesh and Abdul, a Nepalese boy trafficked to Delhi to work for more than 16 hours a day in a zari unit. I salute these child leaders and all the 150 core marchers who have built a movement in the entire Indo-Bangladesh-Nepal border areas.

 

It was inspiring and encouraging when Krishna, a shopkeeper near the bus stand in Murshidabad came to me with tears in his eyes and handed me a piece of paper written - "I have entertained several customers who were accompanied by some young children. But I never knew that this was human trafficking. From now on, I pledge to voice against it and will call the police." Or the excitement of the 3,000 children in Siliguri who braved heavy rain and marched through the entire marketplace. In the meeting soon after when I announced to cancel the rest of the programmes as they were wet and must be cold, a slum girl spontaneously said, "Our cold is nothing compared to the scathing heat of slavery in which many of our brothers and sisters are burning everyday and are being bought like animals."

 

We interfaced with at least 1,000,000 people during the course of our 5,200 KM march. I recall the funny story behind the total distance traversed in the march. The enthusiastic and computer-savvy professional youth of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) calculated the distance of the march to be 2,500 KM before it began. On the penultimate day, when I asked them to see the meter readings of our accompanying vehicles they were surprised to see that we had already covered more than double! How can they think that when we touch the remote villagers and communities, the enthused people will not let us remain on highways but take us to the interior hamlets? Our experiences and learning are reported briefly reported in this document.

 

NGOs - big and small, celebrities, various religious priests, parents, teachers and workers' organisations, politicians and Parliamentarians, bureaucrats, diplomats and officials from the UN agencies, joined hands and hearts with the South Asian children in support of this march. We know that it is just a successful beginning of a long battle. And BBA, Global March Against Child Labour along with their partners and supporters are committed to fight this battle till trafficking and all other forms of slavery are buried deep and become history. A small proof of this commitment was the resounding 'NO' that the core marchers shouted at me during the culmination in Delhi, in response to my advice that they should rest for a while as they must be tired. They raised their hands to go on. I had never seen such a loud chant and strong determination in their whole bodies even during the march.

Kailash Satyarthi... the seeker of truth
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