Undercover Operative Account by Shyam K.
After a frustrating week in Bangalore, I was tired and ready to go home. I’d been looking for trafficked minor girls based on information given to me by a girl who had previously been rescued. She had told us about other minors in the same place where she had been held. Unfortunately, the information was outdated, and none of the girls could be found. Sometimes it just turns out that way, we did the best we could.
Then a call came from my director. He had information from IJM Kolkata and asked if I could get to Pune -- more than 800 kilometers away -- to investigate the case of Matisha*, a missing girl trafficked from West Bengal. She had recently made a distress call from Pune through one of her brothel customers. We had two potential locations where she was being held. Matisha’s parents provided a photograph of her and the contact number from her customer, who had said he wanted to help. My director asked if I wanted to go home first, but I didn't want to create any delay. Fresh information like this doesn't come often.
I took three operatives with me, and IJM Mumbai sent another two, so we had a good amount of man-power when we arrived in Pune. At 3:00 pm I was set to meet the brothel customer, Rajesh, who had made the phone call to Matisha’s parents. But he failed to show as promised, and now he had turned off his phone. We searched for the lodges where she was supposed to be kept, but the information was wrong (Matisha had since been moved) and we couldn't find her. I then contacted the local police and asked them to help us search a few buildings in the red-light area. Again we looked but did not find her. With two disappointments behind us, I again tried to call Rajesh, with no success. His phone was still turned off.
The frustrating day was at a close. The police team had other crimes to deal with and needed to move on. We had done our best. Matisha was not to be found. It was Bangalore all over again.
About to call it a day, I decided to try Rajesh one last time. And this time he answered the phone! Concerned this vital link would again slip from our grasp, I immediately called the police and convinced them to give the search for Matisha one more effort. The police came up with a plan to meet Rajesh. I called him again on the pretext that I was from Kolkata and really wanted to meet him. He told me he was a cook at a lodge, which happened to be very close to the red-light area, and that I could meet with him there. With one operative and the police team waiting at a safe distance, I went to the lodge.
After waiting for some time, Rajesh finally showed up and sat down at my table. I told him I was a cop and warned him not to run. He got very scared and his face turned dark. My operative signaled to the police, and they came in, in case he tried to run. Rajesh’s boss, the lodge owner, got scared too, but after an explanation, he convinced Rajesh to help the police find Matisha.
Now cooperating, Rajesh told us he had visited Matisha with his friend Shakir, who was actually Matisha’s customer. So Rajesh took us to Shakir, and together they led us to her brothel. Posing as customers, we went in with Shakir, who pointed her out. The police then raided the brothel. As soon as Matisha saw me she came running and hugged me, crying "Please save me, save me!" I explained that we had indeed come to rescue her. We called her family, and she spoke with them, so glad to be rescued. Soon she was out of the brothel and safe at the police station. Matisha later gave details of her situation to the police and the brothel keepers were arrested. They are awaiting further legal action.
*name changed to protect identity
This account comes from Shyam K., Freedom Firm's Senior Investigator. Shyam works with our team of operatives to find trafficked girls. He then assists local police to raid brothels, rescue girls, and arrest perpetrators.