According to a report supported by the Department of women and child development, there are 3 million prostitutes in India, of which 40% are minors, which translates to a conservative estimate of approximately 12 lakh minors. The report further says 75% to 77% entered the sex trade through trafficking.
In northern India’s holy city of Varanasi, Ajeet Singh and his team operate a non-profit organization, Guria, meaning ‘doll’ in Hindi.
Guria, an NGO working towards the cause has never limited itself within boundaries to restore the dignity of a trafficked person. The team has visited almost all the red light areas of the country and has rescued trafficked girls from Varanasi, Allahabad, and Meerut.
Guria has been waging war against trafficking by rescuing minors
For nearly three decades, Guria has been waging war against trafficking by rescuing minors and second generation prostitutes from trafficking, rehabilitating them and fighting cases against pimps and brokers, so they do not integrate back into society as repeat offenders.
In fact, Guria has gone as far as rescuing trafficked children from Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Delhi, and Odisha, and now across the borders, in Nepal as well.
At the time Singh decided to tackle trafficking in Varanasi, there was hardly any name associated with reformation in this sector. But at the age of 17, when he attended a marriage in Uttar Pradesh, India, he was distraught to witness a sex worker dance all night to lewd comments and spontaneously proposed adopting her three children to save them from exposure of this market.
He used hidden cameras to record and find out the locations where girls were held
Ajeeth started a movement to rescue small girls from prostitution and flesh trade. He used hidden cameras to record and find out the locations where girls were held. Then he gathered volunteers and raided the area.
He did manage to adopt them after two years but faced social ostracism for integrating children of those deemed pariahs into mainstream society. Singh defines that time as the most difficult in his life describing it worse “than the bullets and attacks I face these days.”
At Guria, the process is into three steps – pre-rescue, rescue, and post-rescue. Pre-rescue involves identification of place of rescue, victim identity verification, attaining legal warrants, recce entry/exit and escape points, the formation of the rescue team, and allocation of a shelter home.
The next step, rescue, involves execution of pre-rescue plans including conducting rescue operation in cooperation with authorities, collecting evidence, and identifying children and belongings to avoid blackmailing from offenders.
Post-rescue operation accounts rehabilitation and preventive measures – filing a police complaint, shifting victims in shelter homes or with family, mock trials with the victim, witness protection, submission of charge sheet after investigation, and opposing bail of traffickers.
Guria’s legal team comprising senior advocates from district courts, High Courts and Supreme Court assist Singh and his team with legal proceedings in ensuring support to the victim and maximum sentencing of offenders.
For Singh, education is important but what’s also necessary is the curiosity to explore the distinction between knowledge and wisdom.
The whole idea is to innovatively take a child into the world of inward journey/introspection through the tool of Art – painting, music, dance, theatre, photography, videography, shouting class, laughing class, meditation, gardening, feeding the bird.
By default connect them to the entire existence around us at the subconscious level, to visualize the extension of the self in the birds, trees, rivers, mountains, animals, humans, religions, races, nations.
Guria’s holistic approach method includes education and alternative livelihood, healthcare, legal aid, awareness campaigns. We should appreciate this unsung hero who wants to bring the lives from the darkness.