Interview with an Investigator

In 2012 -2013, Freedom Firm rescued 43 girls. The following interview is based on two rescues this year that have been of significance to the team.

Investigators setting up undercover cameras

Q: As an investigator, how do you find and target minor girls for rescue? How did you find Rajni*?

A: Our first priority on investigations is to find and rescue minor girls by searching every corner of a red light area. In Pune, we saw a girl standing in a doorway with her brothel keeper who was calling out to passersby. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was a minor.

However, the more our team investigated, the more doubt there was regarding her age. Rajni looked older, but I chose to stick to my initial impression. I knew she was a minor girl as soon as I saw her, but couldn’t prove it at that time.

Q: What were the challenges of rescuing her? What do you usually face on a raid?

A: There’s always a challenge convincing the police. Further, we’re always wary about how much information we should give out, what details do we keep to ourselves? Almost always, there is a tip-off before a raid, following which the girls are hidden away. Brothels often have secret passages, small compartments and hiding places built into them. Minor girls especially are stashed away like luggage. Sometimes the girls are made to just walk out

of the brothels, run out onto the roads, and disappear into the crowds. When this happens, identifying targeted girls is impossible! There are long waiting periods, indecision due to a lack of compelling information. When things do happen, we have to act with urgency. It all comes together or falls apart at the snap of a finger.

Q: For a long time, you argued that Rajni was indeed a minor? How were you so sure?

A: I think we’ve developed an ability to identify minor girls. We’ve spent a significant part of our lives in the red-light-areas; hours and days of surveillance. The areas we operate in undercover, we know each and every girl by appearance, we know every established brothel in Nagpur, Pune & Nashik. We can identify new places of activity that spring up. We know a brothel-keeper or pimp when we see one. We know when a girl’s new on the line. We know by our expertise and experience; it’s our job.

Q: How did you eventually prove that Rajni was a Minor?

A: Brothel keepers know that it is a criminal offense to use minor girls, and they force steroid injections and hormonal tablets on the girls for their bodies to develop. It works; a lot of girls look 5-6 years older. Rajni mentioned in her statement that she was 15-years-old, but had been given medicines to ‘develop.’ We have age verification tests done on all the girls we rescue; it confirmed her status as minor.

Q: Have you or the team ever been attacked? How risky is the work you do?

A: During rescues, there’s always the fear of being attacked by a mob. It has happened before. The agents surround the brothels, they throw stones. It can be scary. Recently, one of our guys was caught by a goon assigned to watch the girls, eventually he did escape but had been severely beaten. We’ve all had things happen to us, at some point we’ve been caught, beaten, robbed – once even by the girls. We’ve had times when seasoned investigators have

suddenly found themselves unable to walk into the red light areas. This can disrupt weeks of surveillance and planning. It is disappointing when this happens, having focussed so hard on getting these girls out.

Q: There is a surveillance video where you guys are engaging girls, doors break open, police and intervention teams come in, take over. You guys, on your cameras always seem to just get up, walk out the door...

A: The girls are taken int