(This is a part of Cobrapost’s Operation Shuddhikaran focussing on RSS’ alleged role in trafficking tribal girls to convert them to Hinduism)
Pursuing a tip-off about this alleged trafficking by RSS workers, Cobrapost reporter called on CWC Chairperson Vij at her Mayur Vihar office under whose jurisdiction New Delhi Railway Station falls. In her report to her counterpart with the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Vij alleges the GRP at the New Delhi Railway Station did not inform her office of the girls rescued by them because the officials concerned did not find it a case of trafficking as the girls were being sent to Gujarat and Punjab to receive education.
The report says that Vij also spoke to her CWC counterpart at Surendra Nagar and her visit to Halwad shelter home, where 20 girls have been put, and the Saraswati Shishu Mandir where they are receiving education, satisfied her.
Although her report sort of exonerates the persons involved in the alleged trafficking, it nonetheless says that the children were not produced before the child welfare body. The report alleges that the persons who had taken charge of these girls did not have written consent of their parents, as required under law, and the CWC of the concerned areas should have been informed when transfer of children takes place from one state to another.
Her report may be a tad tame but when Cobrapost spoke to her she was no less critical of the way the poor girls were taken away to an entirely different culture. At the outset, she says she should have been informed by the police: “Karna chahiye hum interview unka lete hum unka counseling karte (Yes, they [the police] must [have informed us] … we could have interviewed them … could have rendered them some counseling).”
Nonetheless, Vij followed up the case and visited Halwad in Gujarat where 20 girls have been kept at a sprawling ashram run by Ramanikbhai.
The girls have been admitted to Saraswati Shishu Mandir. She says that the rest of the girls were sent to Patiala, Punjab.
In one breath she says there was no trafficking but in the next she questions the motive: “They are comfortable staying there but our objection is that why from Assam to Gujarat …Where is the need to change their culture totally … The children don’t know anything other than Bodo language.
“They even can’t tell their names. My objection is that where is the need to take them that far. Some have either mother or father. So, they should have been kept at Assam itself. You have brought 20 girls here and by teaching them Gujarati you will change their culture entirely, and ultimately they’re going back to Assam only.”
Nothing can be more indicting than what she says: “What will they do when they go back home … I asked them they should help the girls settle here [in Gujarat] itself … I asked them to give me this undertaking in writing.
“They refused and told me that they will restore the girls back to their parents after they turn 18. I asked what they meant by it … by teaching them [these girls] Gujarati and teaching [those girls] Punjabi in Patiala, you are playing with their lives. Better give them education in Assam itself? I even advised them to seek the opinion of the Assam CWC and if they are ready to take the children [back] immediately, [we shall] send them back …”
Our conversation with Vij made it clear that either she has not been briefed correctly by the police officers on duty that day or she has not investigated the matter in detail and leaves something to be desired.
For instance, she does not have the details of the girls staying that evening in Delhi and she did not visit the Patiala shelter home where the rest of the girls had been taken to.
Piqued with the shoddy handling by the police, Vij expresses her displeasure in no uncertain terms: “Yes … the point is the police found that they were going there to study and they simply allowed them to go … but I have got papers from them … whole bunch of paper[s] and if the CWC has transferred them there, there is one chairperson’s sign on it whereas in interstate transfers [of children] it should carry signs of at least two.”
Asking the Cobrapost reporter not to blow the issue out of proportion, the CWC Chairperson says that all five members of her CWC want all the girls to be sent back to Assam and restored to their parents.
Says Vij: “Let them worry about the children rest of the children … and unko wapas Assam bhejna toh hum wapas bhej denge (Now let them worry about the children, rest of the children … and if need be we can send them back to Assam).” Adding further she says: “Humari icchha hai hum paanch jano ki icchha hai (We want [to send them back]. We all five members want [to send them back]).”
By now, we knew there was something more to the matter than met the eye and began our investigation in all earnest. We knew that contrary to the brief that Vij got from the officials, the girls were not sent to Gujarat or Patiala the same day. The girls were taken to a Delhi-based ashram for the night.
After many visits to the Nigam Bodh Ghat, Delhi’s largest cremation ground, and scouring surrounding areas for many days, Cobrapost finally managed to locate Swami Narayan Mandir at the Majnu Ka Tila, famous for its Chang, a Tibetan brew, and met its in-charge Dalipbhai, posing as someone who runs an NGO working for the cause of Hindu faith and wants to foot the bills for the girls who had been brought from Assam and had stayed there.
It took some convincing to make Dalipbhai talking, and as he starts talking we come to know all girls brought from Assam had stayed at his ashram on the night of 11th June 2015: “Tees ladkiyan ayi thi … Assam se (Thirty girls had come from Assam).”
His colleague seconds him: “Haan New Delhi station se jo leke aye the (Yes, they were brought here from New Delhi [railway] station).” Dalipbhai too confirms it again: Yes, they stayed here overnight.”
These girls were brought there at about 11–12 o’clock that night. They were taken to Gujarat the next day after morning meals. He even knows what happened at the station to say: “Assam se jog ladki ayi thi … police walon ne gher liya tha (The girls who had come from Assam … Police had captured them).” He then divulges who the man was who took the girls and to where and what he does, after making some effort to recall the name. “Ramanikbhai.”
According to Dalipbhai, Ramanikbhai raises poor girls, who are sometimes orphans, educates and marries them off when they attain adulthood, and all the expenses are borne by some rich Gujaratis there.
But the real motive of this altruistic enterprise is not social service. While trying to get Cobrapost reporter in touch with Ramanikbhai over phone, we get some idea from Dalipbhai how the girls brought to them are taken care of before they are initiated into Hinduism: “The trust educates the girls, washes them, feeds them, gets their heads tonsured, gets them proper clothes, so much so that the girls don’t want to leave the place … and then there are many in Gujarat who adopt them.”
The ritual that Dalipbhai is describing is what is known as shuddhikaran in Hindu religious terminology. This purification ritual is performed when a person is considered defiled, thus outcast, to bring him or her back to the community fold, and Hindu missionaries perform this ritual before admitting those who gave up Hindu religion in recent or not-so-recent past.