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How BSF, police, court turned Bangladeshi woman slave victim into accused in crime

Counterview Desk 

Civil rights leader Kirity Roy has strongly objected to the manner in which the Border Security Force (BSF) , the police and the judiciary in West Bengal have treated a 35 years old Bangladeshi woman victim of human trafficking, who was subjected to sexual exploitation for 15 long years, has been declared guilty of violating the Foreigners Act, violating all human rights norms.
Roy, who is Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, West Bengal, said the woman, now aged 35, is not the only such victim at the hands of state machinery. In a letter to the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), he said, between January and June 2021, where trafficked 106 Bangladeshi women Bangladeshi and 30 children who were charged with criminal offences by the BSF/police.


I again want to attract your attention over the situation where the administration did not follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division), Government of India, in connection to deal with the matter of women and child victim survivors of sex-trafficking from neighbouring countries, and therefore these victims are suffering highly without any intentional offence committed by them.
On July 14, 2021, Border Security Force, Frontier Head Quarter North Bengal, Siliguri released one press statement proudly stating that their troops of 61 Battalion BSF apprehended a Bangladeshi woman, Halima Begum, aged about 35 years, daughter of Abdul Hanib, resident of village Hamar, Madanpur Bhogduma, PO & PS Birganj, Dist Danajpur, Bangladesh during the time of crossing international border from India to Bangladesh through unfenced area of Hili Border Out Post.
In the said press release it was officially made public that the victim woman was trafficked 15 years ago through Malda border with the help of an Indian tout, namely Samat, resident of Bihar. Samat took her to district Mansa, Punjab, where the victim was sold to an Indian national, namely Sarjit Singh, for Rs 10,000 who exploited and kept the victim at his home for 11 years and gave birth to a child.
The victim somehow escaped from the house of Sarjit Singh and reached Mansa bus stand where she met an unknown lady who handed over her to one Tota Singh, who also exploited her. The victim also managed to escape from his house and somehow reached Hili, South Dinajpur district in West Bengal to cross the international border with the intention of meeting her family in Bangladesh, and at this time she was apprehended by BSF and handed over to the Hili Police Station for legal action.
From this official statement of BSF, Frontier Head Quarter North Bengal, with pictures and documents released to media, it is revealed that the victim had no intention or purpose to illegally enter in our country, rather she is a victim of sex trafficking and for the last 15 years she was exploited by two Indians and gave birth a child.
In this case one can observe several anomalies:
First of all,
no person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. the name of the rape victim or even in a remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large. According to section 228A of Indian Penal Code anyone publishing the name of a rape victim is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.
But here the BSF authorities at North Bengal Frontier Head Quarter published an official statement regarding the case and disclosed the name and even photos of the victim woman and thereby revealed her identity in public gaze. Here, BSF has violated the general rule of law undermining social justice to a sex trafficking victim.
Secondly, the BSF 61 Battalion apprehended the victim lady and handed over to the Hili Police station for registration a case. Here again the BSF authorities and police officials of Hili Police Station violate the advisory issued by the Government of India vide office memorandum No. 14051/14/2011-F.VI of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) Government of India dated May 1, 2012, where it is clearly stated that if a foreign victim of human trafficking is found without valid passport or visa, and in case the victim is a woman or a child, she should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act and immediate action must be taken to repatriate the victim.
And thirdly, from one reliable source we received information that a case was registered in Hili Police Station case number 141/2021 under section 14A (a)/(b) of the Foreigners Act against Halima. BSF in its official statement said that the victim was trafficked for sex and exploited by Samat, Sarjit Singh and Tota Singh for last 15 years.
But astonishingly BSF does not mention these names in its complaint to the police and register a case against Samat, Sarjit Singh and Tota Singh. Given this framework, the police cannot investigate the matter properly. This means that if any foreigner becomes a victim of sex trafficking, and if she has been exploited for several years in this country, the government and administration will not take proper and due action.
The detention of the victim woman is just meant to harass her private life when she was exploited in this land for the last 15 years
It is a systemic violation of law by the administration and the judiciary in the state of West Bengal. On July 14, 2021 the victim was produced before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court, Balurghat, in connection with GR case number 851/2021 and Hili Police Station case number 141/2021 under section 14A (a)/(b) of the Foreigners Act, and the victim lady was sent to judicial custody for 14 days without giving little respect to the advisory issued by the Government of India vide office memorandum No. 14051/14/2011-F.VI of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) dated May 1, 2012. The victim of slavery became an accused in crime.
As a member state of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), it is the duty and responsibility of the Indian state to follow the resolutions passed there. It is the constitutional duty of every citizen of India to foster respect as enshrined in Article 51C of the Indian Constitution. SAARC, in its Convention in Kathmandu 2010 and in Paro, Bhutan, on April 11-12, 2013, clearly took stand against trafficking of women and children.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to all States and Union Territories. Judicial Colloquiums were held to sensitize the decision by the Government of India. If SOP is not followed by police, BSF, or even judiciary, the erring officials should be booked accordingly. Section 12(f) of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 empowers your Commission to study the treaties and make recommendations thereto.
Last but not the least, the detention of the victim woman is just meant to harass her private life when she was exploited in this land for the last 15 years. In such situations, the trafficked persons lose their voice and become detainees. BSF, police and judiciary’s action towards this woman victim is not according to the established legal procedure.
I want attract your attention to a grievous systematic violation by the stakeholders of our criminal justice delivery system with evidence. Out of thousands of our complaints to your Commission and respective government departments, we are hereby affixing references only a few from January to June 2021, where Bangladeshi trafficked women and children were charged with criminal offences by the BSF/police, this year only:
This systemic violation should be stopped and urge you to take stringent step in connection with this case and recommend to the Government of India and the Government of West Bengal and its line departments, including the judiciary, about proper legal framework to deal with trafficking/ slavery cases in line with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted by the General Assembly Resolution 55/25 of November 15, 2000.



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