Ursula Kulu, daughter of Santosh and Monica Kulu of Akarabasti, Serajuli, under Bogeenadi police station in Dhakuakhana subdivision of Lakhimpur district has been missing since 2011 when she was 12 years old. She was taken by Tarsiers Carla and Sylus Belung to a person from Sector-C in Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh for work as a domestic help on September 28, 2011. On September 30, 2011 Ursula’s mother Monica was informed about her missing from that home in Naharlagun. Monica went to the home in Naharlagun in search of her missing daughter on the next day and was told about Ursula’s disappearance. A report in the local police station and a missing advertisement on a local newspaper was also shown to Monica by Ursula’s employer. Since then Ursula has been untraced. Unfortunately, her parents could not remember the name of the person from whose home Ursula went missing nor do they have the copy of the newspaper advertisement.
Similarly Salmi Munda, an orphan from the same village was taken away by one Victoria Kulu in 2011 for work outside Lakhimpur. Ever since there has been no trace of Salmi. A case was registered against Victoria at the Bogeenadi police station the same year but no follow-up has been taken up so far.
The same Akarabasti village has the missing case of one Carmela Sawra (7), daughter of Tarsiers and Burtela Sawra was given to a person from Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh in 2007. Since then they are receiving no news of their daughter Carmela. Mangal Bhumiz, a fellow villager gave his daughter Munni Mhumiz to his friend who took her to a person in Banderdewa, Arunachal Pradesh. For the last 12 years, Mangal is searching his daughter in vain. The employer of his daughter in Banderdewa also told him that Munni had been missing from his home since a long time.
A recent case of disappearance of a Class IX student Bobita Topno from the same village has also surfaced during the investigation made by this correspondent. Bobita was taken away by one Anita Pait on February 9 this year for work at Naharlagun. Many villagers reportedly saw Anita Pait taking Bobita Topno by a train from the nearby Serajuli railway station. Bobita’s mother Sabina Topno has lodged a complaint at North Lakhimpur Sadar Police Station.
Meanwhile, Bobita Topno has been brought back by her trafficker Anita Pait following a move by Lakhimpur unit of All Adivasi Women Association of Assam (AAWAA) and this correspondent. On March 5, AAWAA held a public meeting at Birsa Munda Complex in Akarabasti, Serajuli where this correspondent was also present. As a result of that awareness meeting, Bobita Topno was brought back by Anita Pait, daughter of Ritlal Pait last week. However, the victim was left only in the village instead of her home by the trafficker. It has been learnt that Bobita was taken to Sivasagar by Anita. Her case opens a new angle on otherwise the same story of trafficking of girl children in Lakhimpur district. So far, the trafficked girls are reported to have been taken to Arunachal Pradesh. But Bobita’s return from Sivasagar speaks a different story which needs further investigation.
These are some of the stories of trafficked girls from Lakhimpur district who have not returned to their homes. These incidents have been happening in one of the most remote and neglected areas of the district close to the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh inter-State border. All the victims belonged to Adivasi ex-tea garden community of Assam settled outside the tea estates. Poor economic condition along with alcoholism has made this community fall victims to the lure of money offered by agents of girl child traffickers. Most of these girls are trafficked to Arunachal Pradesh to prospective buyers by agents who promise good living conditions and education to their parents. The parents are initially paid some money by the buyers or agents and no payments are made subsequently. The strange part of all the cases is that none of the parents of the trafficked girls know fully about the names of the persons and their addresses where their girls are taken to. The parents also do not have photographs of their trafficked daughters. The proximity of the border with Arunachal Pradesh also makes the traffickers to come and pick the girls from these peripheral areas to be sold outside. The opening of newly-operated broad-gauge railway service through these areas has contributed for the easy movement of trafficking of girls to outside Assam. The Government data released on March 9 has shown almost 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in 2016 – a rise of nearly 25 per cent from the previous year. The Ministry of Women and Child Development told Parliament that 19,223 women and children were trafficked last year against 15,448 in 2015, with the highest number of victims recorded in the eastern state of West Bengal. As Assam shares its western border with West Bengal, this proximity has made the State vulnerable on this issue. Intense awareness drives in areas where the trafficking is on and a active role by the law enforcing agencies are the key measures necessary to check this crime taking place in rural Assam.