Shaking the state’s conscience

Monday Musing

[ Amar Sangno ]

The recent child prostitution and human trafficking racket unravelled by the Itanagar police, involving five minor victims, has deeply shaken the state’s conscience. The police have so far arrested 21 people in connection with Itanagar WPS Case No 20/24, u/s 373 IPC, r/wSection 6/8/12 of the POCSO Act, and Section 3/4/5/6 of the Immoral Trafficking Act.

Among the arrestees, it is reported that 11 are pimps and 11 are sexual assaulters. Among the assaulters, nine are government employees, including a deputy superintendent of police, the deputy director of health services, and an assistant engineer.

The number of arrestsĀ  reflects that most of those involved in the racket are government officials. If the charges against them stand in the court, all of them would be liable to be termed paedophiles.

Their involvement in trafficking minors has already sent out an outrageous message to the society and forced every citizen to question the morality of the alleged accused. Are theseĀ  officers prowling wolves in sheep’s clothing? Was their moral conscience dead?

This racket is one of the biggest in the state’s crime history involving minor victims. Earlier in July 2017, 15 persons,including teenagers, had been arrested in connection with a sex racket in Itanagar. Had this racket not involved minors, it wouldn’t have created so much hue and cry, as for adults, prostitution, per se, is not an offence under the Indian Penal Code, except for sexual exploitation, child prostitution, seducing, pimping and running brothels that are punishable under Section 2(f) of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956.

The bigger question is how the pimps running a brothel on the pretext of running a beauty parlour went unnoticed for such a long period until the police intervened.

The modus operandi, according to the police, was that the pimps would bring poor minor girls from Dhemaji,Assam on the pretext of getting them jobs in Itanagar. Once the girls attained adolescence, they forced them into prostitution. Girls from poor economic background are soft targets for exploitation and trafficking.

The episode has sparked outrage among child rightsactivists, and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has stepped in to pressurise the government and the police authorities to ensure that justice is delivered to the minor girl victims.

The NCPCR’s legal consultant, advocate Anuj Saluja,termed the incident a “rarest of the rare case and shocking to the conscience,” and urged the people to create awareness among the children, parents that there is the POCSO Act.

Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Ratan Anya said that the commission has urged the police to impose additional sections against the accused.

The police authorities have been efficient in taking punitive action by busting the racket and arresting the accused, but what about the rehabilitation of the victims? Are they getting adequate counselling and rehabilitation at shelter homes? People hardly care to enquire.

As the society and the establishment, we collectively failed these minors. Our awareness about child rights and vigilance on suspicious moves in business establishments like beauty parlours, spas and hotels could have thwartedthis horrific incident from occurring. Those minor victims could be anyone’s daughter or sister; it is time to speak up for child rights.