By LB THAPA, lately in Mumbai, FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
I was commissioned by a reputed magazine to cover a sensitive story in Mumbai. The editorial team had given me this task because I was born and raised in India. They thought I could do the task successfully and I wanted to prove them right.
My task was to know what happens with the Nepali girls once they are trafficked to Mumbai brothels. I wanted to know their modus operand and many more secretes.
I am going to tell you this story as it happened…Are you ready? Let’s follow me…
This was the second time I worked undercover and I was excited. So, the story begins from here.
BOARDING A TRAIN FROM GORAKHPUR TO MUMBAI
I was standing at the Gorakhpur railway station, waiting for Kushinagar Express. My destination was Mumbai. The city famous for Bollywood cinemas, but it is also notorious for one of the Asia’s largest prostitution centers, Kamathipura.
I boarded the train and occupied my birth in the 2nd class AC compartment. After having spent several hours, lurching back and forth, eventually I found myself in the Mumbai Central Railway Station. This was my first visit to Mumbai in ten years. The last time I had visited to this city was in 2009. The city was not much changed since then. If there was any change then it was the crowd. The crowd was much thicker now than it was before.
My stay in Mumbai was relatively comfortable. I stayed at my younger brother’s official quarters. He is an army officer in the Indian Army. At dinner, I asked my brother to help me by providing a jawan, who can guide me through Kamathipura. My original plan was to visit the red-light area of Kamathipura.
For many Nepalese Red-light area of Kamathipura, Mumbai is a familiar name. Over the years, it has earned much notoriety for pushing innocent girls into prostitution. It is believed that most of the trafficked Nepali girls are taken to Kamathipura, Mumbai, where they are brutally beaten and repeatedly raped until they agree to solicit the customers. Their miseries do not end here as they are further trafficked to the Middle East and the Gulf nations.
HISTORY OF KAMATHIPURA
A part of Kamathipura was developed by the British with a sole purpose of providing sexual services to their soldiers. Many European prostitutes some even from Japan were settled at Kamathipura. They entertained British soldiers and civilians for money.
When the British left India, Kamathipura was taken over by the Indian sex mafia. Today, Kamathipura has turned into a prostitution hub, where roughly 6000 odd sex workers are actively involved in the sex trade. However, only a decade ago the number of sex workers was much higher in Kamathipura alone.
Kamathipura has 14 lanes. Of which 7 lanes are brothels, where sex workers run their business in days and nights. Other lanes have simple houses, tea stalls, shops, etc. Sex workers are both brothel based and street based.
HOW BROTHELS WORK HERE
Some senior sex workers have also bought the brothels while others have to pay a sum of their earnings to Madams. Most of the buildings are in dilapidated condition, which need urgent repairing. However, only a few buildings are repaired, others are left unnoticed. Madams are the owners of brothels. They have direct controls upon all girls working under them.
Legally, they are not allowed to bring a minor girl into prostitution, but the reality is different here. Much worse than one can even conjure up. Money speaks here. Pay money and these Madams can make available a girl of any age for the sexual gratification.
While walking through the Red-light area of Kamathipura, we were lured by many girls who stood on both sides of the gully. These girls were of different colors and sizes, but my prying eyes were looking for Nepali girls. I wanted to have some conversation with them.
I continued walking, ignoring their calls and sexual innuendoes. Meanwhile, the jawan who was sent by my brother to guide me through Kamathipura said, “Sabji, what types of girls are you looking for? Don’t be ashamed of telling me, I can find one that will meet your expectation?”
I calmed down his excitement and said, “Look, sardarji, I did not come here to get laid. I am a freelance writer and I want to know more about Nepali girls working here as sex workers”. Upon this sardarji held my hand and took me to another lane…dark and damp.
MEETING WITH A NEPALI BROTHEL OWNER
We stood at the door of a brothel, which was owned by a Nepali woman. I was about to knock at the door when a black and tall girl, must be a Bangali, appeared from nowhere and said, “She is busy with her client. You can come to my brothel instead”.
I simply said to her that I was looking for only a Nepali girl, not others. But she was quite adamant at her approach. She kept on insisting us on following her. Meanwhile, to our relief, the door was opened and a thin man may be at his 40s came out exhausted. Looking at us, he grinned awkwardly, pulled up his trouser’s fastener and walked past singing a popular Hindi song.
Sardarji, my guide, knew the girl very well. He introduced me with her. She was Mukhi Tamang from Dhading district of Nepal. She was at her 30s and also the owner of the brothel. She was brought here when she even did not have her first period…she was merely 10-year old.
I was terribly unhappy but I continued conversing with her, because it was only Mukhi who could give me firsthand information about the dark life of Kamathipura, where many Nepali girls are compelled to live a life worse than hell. I prepared myself for a long conversation with Mukhi. Meanwhile, I made it clear that I would pay her fee for the time I consume whatever. This made her more convinced and assured.
My first question for her was that how she reached Kamathipura at such an early age. Mukhi lifted her eyes, which had no moisture. They appeared to be much dry and grim. “We were poor but happy in our village, but one day everything changed.
My father fell from a cliff and was bed ridden for months. We spent all the cash and gold jewelry for the treatment of our father, but no avail. His condition did not improve and one day he was found motionless in his bed. He had consumed rat-killing poison to end his life.
About that time, our elder uncle came from Mumbai on leave and took my elder sister with him. He had promised to find a job for her. After three months gap, she started sending money for about one year. Then she stopped sending money all of a sudden.
When asked to our uncle he said that she eloped with a boy to an unknown place. Then my uncle took me to Mumbai. I stayed with him at his residence for two days then my uncle asked me to follow a woman in a taxi.
I was taken to Kamathipura. I don’t think I need to tell you after then what happened with me” said Mukhi Tamang. When I asked about her elder sister, she said that actually one day she was found dead in her bed.
“My sister was a brave girl. At least she had courage to end her life, but I was not that courageous,” said Mukhi, and for the first time I saw her eyes welled in tears. Perhaps her tears were tribute to her beloved sister.
From Mukhi Tamang I came to know about the shocking reality of darker world of sex slavery in Kamathipura. If more money is given to Madams, they make available as young as 10 year-old girl or even younger for sex.
Many minor girls are also sent outside Kamathipura to entertain influential clients, who never mind to pay wads of money for minor girls. Due to active involvement of many NGOs, INGOs and constant police raid, nowadays Madams do not keep minor girls in brothels for long time. Minor girls are brought from undisclosed locations to entertain special clients. Thereafter those minor girls are taken away in a jiffy.
There are many pimps and agents who regularly lookout for potential clients. At the same time, they also look for every possible opportunity to traffic young girls. They have a very wide and strong network to traffic girls.
All kinds of people are involved in this network. Unfortunately, girl’s trafficking has turned out to be a very lucrative business, where money comes thick and fast.
Madams keep herself in regular touch with her trusted agents who are spread across the country. Almost all Madams work with gangsters. These gangsters provide security and even don’t hesitate to take life if needed.
A newly trafficked girl is tortured and gang raped for several times till she gives in and begins entertaining the clients. There are many eyes to watch newly recruited girls lest they try to run away. In the beginning, girls implore with every client to help her to get out of the hell, but the clients seldom dare to help them.
They do not want to annoy Madam’s goons who are highly organized and determined to go to any extent. However, now and then some clients feel pity and inform police, mostly without disclosing their identities.
Many times it happens when a girl who denies entertaining her clients is beaten so hard that either she commits suicide or succumbs to severe injury. Her body is duly disposed unceremoniously and forgotten. No one in the brothels is allowed to talk about the matter again.
Sometimes drugs are given to new girls on regular basis. Madams are more concerned about their investment on each girl. For them girls are merely commodities. All Madams try their best to make maximum money out of their girls’ youthfulness.
Sex workers are automatically out of the business once they are caught with deadly disease AIDS. But there are many girls who have been continuously performing their daily rituals even after knowing that they are HIV.
Due to lack of an alternative source of income, many girls remain in the business of sex trade. It is believed that there are about 90 percent Sex Workers at Kamathipura infected with sexually transmitted disease (STDs), and about 70 percent are HIV positive. However, in the recent time some NGOs and INGOs have initiated to work in this direction. But the success is far below than expected.
Most of the girls trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh to Kamathipura are underage. The modus-operandi of girls trafficking is easy to understand. Nepali agents in Mumbai walk around and meet with several Nepali folks and ask them to bring minor and young girls from their respective villages.
They offer more money for minors than adult. The greed of money goads these people to lure minor and young girls of their villages and hand over them to these agents for money. These agents take the girls to Madams and get their part of share.
THE FACE OF KAMATHIPURA IS CHANGING NOW
But today’s Kamathipura has gotten sick and old. Owing to active involvement of many NGOs, INGOs and other organizations to support Sex Workers, sex racketeers have found their work much riskier and full of hassles.
Meanwhile, nowadays many young girls successfully run prostitution racket from private apartments outside Kamathipura. They use mobile phones and internet to access their clients. Literarily speaking mobile phones and internet have made prostitution possible from any corner of the city.
In the recent years, property value of Kamathipura and nearby areas has shot up by many times. As a result of this the brothels are being bought by private builders and businessmen. This has pushed Kamathipura based prostitutes to find cheaper places somewhere.
This is the reason why most of the brothels of 14 lanes are empty now. The rent of those brothels is out of the reach of many prostitutes. On top of that active participation of many organizations, human rights groups, media and well informed people have made girl’s trafficking not that easy as it used to be some years ago.
Even Mukhi Tamang has planned to shift to Navi Mumbai soon. With the money she has deposited in the bank, she wants to buy a flat in Navi Mumbai. According to Mukhi Tamang, many former prostitutes have started working in restaurants where life is more at ease and they can make more money than they would while soliciting.
A SURPRISE! MUKHI TAMANG’S DAUGHTER STUDIES IN DARJEELING
I was surprised when Mukhi said that she has a daughter who studies in Darjeeling. She showed me her beautiful daughter’s photograph in school uniform. She studies in the eighth grade and lives in the hostel. Upon her request I have not mentioned her daughter’s name or school name either.
“I don’t know who the father of my daughter is, but this does not make any sense. She is my daughter and this is enough. I am glad that one of my relatives in Darjeeling has given his name to my daughter. For the world he is the father of my daughter. I am grateful to him forever. I regularly send in money to my daughter and also visit her whenever I feel so,” said Mukhi enthusiastically.
It is good to know that nowadays there are many organizations working in Kamathipura. They have focused different sectors mainly health, education, rehabilitation of the Sex Workers and also for their children. The Sanghamitra is being run by and for the sex workers of Kamathipura. It provides practical assistance to women in the sex trade as well as helping to rescue children and trafficked women from the brothels.
In recent time, the charm of sex trade in Kamathipura has taken a nose dive, but it is not out. A small part of Kamathipura is still alive and thriving. Only a collective effort from all sides can defeat girl’s trafficking. Kamathipura can no longer exist only if the supply of young girls is ceased.
To clamp down girl’s trafficking, the organizations one like Maiti Nepal must be strengthened with more power to act freely. The government must show true commitments to fight against girl’s trafficking. At the same time, more development projects should be initiated in the rural parts of Nepal.
Poverty is the main culprit of girl’s trafficking in the country. Unless and until poverty is tackled successfully, the disease so called girl’s trafficking will loom large every now and then.
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