[Survivor Series] I was raped over 5 months and forced to undergo an abortion
I was born in a small village called Bagdah in the Bangaon subdivision of the North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal. I grew up there, and till the age of 14, I remember being a very happy child. I used to paint, spend time with my friends and I enjoyed school, particularly my history lessons.
One day, I was walking alone to school. It was early in the morning, and a van stopped near me. Before I realised what was happening, someone had pushed me into the van. I tried to scream for help, but a hand was firmly clamped down on my mouth. I tried with every ounce of strength to run but to no avail. I had been kidnapped by three men.
As we sped away from Bagdah, I continued to struggle. At the time, I did not realise it, but a farmer had seen the entire incident and informed my parents. They immediately contacted the police, and a general diary entry was filed at the local police station. Efforts to find me were initiated. An FIR was launched under IPC sections 365, 363, and 334.
At 9 pm the next night, the police managed to locate me in a city close to Kolkata called Dumdum. I was rescued and brought to court for my ‘164’. A ‘164’ is when a ‘victim’ gives a detailed account of what had transpired, in private.
Rumana was kidnapped at the age of 14 and was forced to undergo an abortion by her kidnapper
It is the most important piece of evidence, based on which the case is built. Post this, arrest warrants were issued, and a chargesheet was prepared. However, the police soon realised that all three men had gone missing.
A few months later, when I had just started to recover, I learnt that one of the kidnappers had returned to my village. My parents and the local NGO which had helped rescue me, Malipota Association for Transformation of Environment (MATE), immediately informed the police. They raided his house but were unable to find him. We did not know it at the time, but this would be the first of many raids that would take place at my trafficker’s house.
To enable me to continue to fight my case, the district-level authority provided me with free legal aid. I was also regularly counselled by psychologists from MATE, and I became an active participant of BIJOYANI, a collective of human trafficking survivors.
I was trying to piece my life back together. It looked as though everything was settling down. Little did I know that this was just the calm before the storm.
I was walking home one day when I suddenly came face to face with my trafficker. I stood still, my knees beginning to buckle, while he spat out threat after threat. He made it clear he wanted me to retract the case I was building against him. Before I could even begin screaming for help, he ran away. Somehow, I stumbled home and haltingly told my family what had transpired.
My parents immediately called the police, and another general diary entry was filed. For the second time, the police raided the trafficker’s house, this time picking his father up for interrogation. It did not yield any results and they were unable to find my trafficker.
In the interim, my family and I began to get threatening calls from an unknown number, which was eventually traced back to Maharashtra. Then calls began coming from a different number, which was traced back to Hyderabad. For the third time, the police conducted a raid at the trafficker’s house. Yet again, it yielded no results.
'I was kidnapped again'
Five months later, I was kidnapped again. I was walking to math tuition when I was blindsided and forced into a vehicle. When I did not return home from tuition, my mother checked in with my teacher, who informed her that I had not attended class. Fearing the worst, my parents panicked and rushed to the police station. A general diary entry was immediately filed; however, it was left at that.
Furious at the lackadaisical attitude of the police, MATE and my mother wrote a letter to the police superintendent, altering him to the fact that the local police were not investigating the case properly.
After the complaint had been registered, the police took the father and brother of my kidnapper into custody. Once again, they were unable to coax any useful information out of them. Eventually, the police did file an FIR under IPC section 365 and 363, but for some strange reason, this was not shared with my parents or MATE, who had been supporting my parents through this ordeal. To pressure the police into action, MATE consulted with its partner organisation, Partners for Anti-Trafficking (PAT).
They sent letters to the West Bengal Human Resource Commission, Chief Minister, Child Development and Welfare Committee, and the CID – Bhawani Bhawan. The same letter was also copied to the local police station, yet no action was taken.
After 10 days, MATE took my mother to meet the officials at Bhawani Bhawan, where a detailed account of incidents (both times) was taken down. At the same time, MATE and PAT collectively decided to write to higher authorities, to increase the pressure on the local police.
Amid all this, my mother received a phone call from an unknown number, informing her that I was not well. It was traced to a cell tower in Raigad, Maharashtra. When MATE investigated further, they realised that the call had come from a girl, whom my kidnapper had been married to. He had sold her off after marrying her. MATE and PAT continued to investigate, pooling their resources and they learned that the trafficker was working in Mumbai.
They managed to receive confirmation about his whereabouts (and mine) and informed Mission Mukti Foundation, a rescue organisation, about the same. A raid was conducted, and I was rescued. It had taken five months to rescue me.
One day at a time
After being rescued, I was taken to a local police station and kept in the custody of the Child Welfare Committee. I gave my testimony to the Maharashtra police and underwent a thorough medical examination, the results of which shocked everyone around me and left me feeling humiliated.
During my five months of capture, my trafficker had repeatedly raped and assaulted me. I was even forced to undergo an abortion. It was an ordeal I had tried to block it because it was physically painful and emotionally confusing.
At the time of my rescue, he had been captured and was in the custody of the police. When the police from my hometown heard of my rescue, they requested that I be brought back to Bagdah. An order for the same had also come in from the higher police authorities, a result of the letters which had been sent by MATE and PAT.
Once I returned to Bengal, I was taken to a shelter home, where I got a chance to meet my mother for a few minutes. We spoke about everything that had transpired and I remember feeling….empty. I was kept in quarantine for 14 days after which I had to undergo another medical examination and give another 164. Everything felt invasive and tiring.
I am at the shelter home now. Every day, I try and make sense of everything that has happened, but it can become overwhelming. So, I am trying to take it one day at a time.
(Courtesy: Malipota Association for Transformation of Environment)