On November 28th when our team was investigating Neemuch, MP, we got a lead about Chola, a minor girl who was forced into prostitution. The next day we met with the Superintendent of Police, SP, in Neemuch and shared information about Chola so he could initiate a rescue. We had a long discussion about why the previous rescue attempts failed, the challenges that had risen, the obstacles we faced, each one's roles… The SP wanted to make sure that the rescue operation would go smoothly and Chola would be rescued. The SP wanted to gather all the details before he could draw out a rescue plan.
At 8:30 pm that evening we were in the police station where we met other key members of the police team, a few of whom we knew from the previous failed rescue attempt. After a detailed discussion, the rescue operation was fixed for the next morning.
Before we could set out, we got information that Chola and the brothel keeper were not at the brothel. The police called to ask us about the delay - we shared an update and told them that we would keep them informed. At 1:30 pm, we learned that Chola and the brothel keeper were back. Since it was lunch time, the police officer said that they would draw up a plan after the team had their lunch. We agreed but also urged them to initiate the raid that day as there was a high possibility of Chola being shifted to another dera (village). The police officer did not want to rush the rescue operation since the earlier rescue attempts had failed so scheduled it for the next day.
The next day the police were attending to a few prior commitments by the time they were done, it was 5:30 pm and the rescue was pushed to the next day.
On December 1st at about 2 pm we received confirmation that Chola and the brothel keeper were in the brothel. Before the police could act on the information, we learned the brothel keeper left the location. We continued to wait and then at 3:30 pm once again we learned that Chola and the brothel keeper were at the location. Once again before the police and our team could reach the location, Chola and the brothel keeper moved to another location. This created a little confusion and delay.
Despite the confusion and movement to different locations, the police rescued Chola and arrested the brothel keeper. The police placed them in a car. Within a few minutes a mob gathered and became violent. They surrounded the car and were trying to yank Chola and the brothel keeper out of the car. They pulled social worker Smita by her shawl and also grabbed her hand and tried to yank her out as the car began to move. She sustained a few minor injuries. There was a lot of shoving, pushing, screaming and cursing; police and members from our team were roughed up but managed to drive away.
Once we reached the police station, the brothel keeper and Chola became aggressive and physically abusive. The police had to handcuff the brothel keeper to restrain her. The Superintendent of Police, SP, came and congratulated everyone and said that next time, they would apply what they learned from this rescue mission to the next rescue and each rescue will get better. The First Information Report, FIR was filed. We completed all procedures by 12 am after which we returned to our office.
Chola is living in a shelter home in Ratlam and the brothel keeper is in police custody.
Madhya Pradesh has a deeply rooted history of child prostitution which has been widely tolerated, and even expected, in some communities. The children may be the greatest sufferers, but then they grow into mothers and fathers who perpetuate the cycles to the detriment of new generations and the community at large. A successful rescue in this tough region is a big step toward change. It communicates the value of a girl, and that exploitation will have consequences. The attitude of the police to learn from each rescue and not be deterred by the mob is promising. But it is just a start. There is a long way to go, as is evidenced by the reactions of the community, the brothel keeper, and the victim herself. Shifting to an understanding honors the value of each girl and stops exploitation will take time and persistence.