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Looking for Rani

Rani* was rescued in Kabadi Bazar red light area, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh on 17th May, 2017 with three other girls. During a conversation with Freedom Firm social workers in the police station, she revealed that she was from Jharkhand. On 23rd May 2017, a person named Lata from Dhoulpur, Rajasthan, claiming to be her legal guardian, filed an application for the custody of Rani. A village head from Dhoulpur certified the documents produced by Lata to the CJM court in Meerut. Our liaison officer personally met the Investigating Officer and shared the fact that Rani is from Jharkhand, not Rajasthan. He pointed out that the person who came to claim her custody is probably faking their identity and requested him to submit an application to the court to not release Rani until proper investigations were done. Freedom Firm also filed an application at the CJM court petitioning for rejection of the custody application on these grounds. In spite of our application, the CJM court gave Rani’s custody to Lata on 6th June 2017.

Freedom Firm social workers conducted a home inquiry on 13th June and 20th July at Dholpur, Rajashtan. On both occasions, Rani was not found with the custodians. Our social workers then traced her family in Jharkhand in August and retrieved documents that revealed that she was a minor. While interacting with her parents they discovered that Rani was trafficked by a man named Gajendra, three years before, who promised to provide work so she could support her family. He took her to Delhi and then to Meerut where she was sold to Lata. Since her parents were poor and illiterate they were forced to depend on the trafficker for any information about their daughter.

In October 2017, after months of looking for Rani, we found her at the same brothel in Meerut where she was rescued earlier. When a rescue operation was planned, the team arrived at a locked brothel – the brothel keeper and Rani were alerted and had disappeared.

Surprisingly, Freedom Firm social workers again found Rani in the month of February 2018 at her parent’s home! Rani explained that after the court released her to Lata in Meerut she was taken to Madhya Pradesh and then back to the brothel in Meerut. She also shared how she came in contact with a customer called Sanjay, who met her frequently and told her to leave the business and convinced her to run away from the brothel. That’s how she got back home. The fact that her trafficker, Gajendra, was arrested and that the Anti-Human-Trafficking-Unit in Meerut is continuously searching for Lata, may have a lot to do with Rani’s opportunity to return home. In a recent follow-up, we met Rani in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh with Sanjay. He has promised to take care of her and marry her when she turns 18 in a couple of months.

Is she safe with Sanjay? Is Sanjay somehow connected to Lata or Gajendra? These are concerns that will keep Freedom Firm involved in Rani’s life. While her future remains uncertain, we are glad we have the chance to meet Rani in a place other than the brothel.

Rani and Sanjay eating pizza with social workers

*name changed to protect identity


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