Ajeet Singh, Director of Guria and failure to support efforts to rescue children from prostitution

Re: Ajeet Singh, Director of Guria and failure to support efforts to rescue children from prostitution

To: Ms. Mayawati, Chief Minister, Chief Minister’s Secretariat, and others

From: John Cotter, member of LRWC

Date: 2009-05-06

LRWC is writing to ask that you take all measures to ensure that:
1. Mr. Ajeet Singh and other people working for Guria, a human rights organization against trafficking and forced prostitution, are given the protection necessary to continue their lawful human rights work in safety and free from intimidation and harassment; and,
2. the rescued girls are given protection, assistance and rehabilitation in accordance with the ITP Act; and,
3. the rescue and rehabilitation of the other children suspected to be held by the criminals in the red-light area of the city.

At risk in this matter – for which LRWC is urgently asking your intervention — are approximately 70 children forced into prostitution in Meerganj, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. LRWC has been advised that it was when an attempt was made to help these victims that several disturbing events came to light regarding child prostitution in the area and the possibility that rogue elements within the local police organization were cooperating with the people unlawfully using the children as sex slaves in the local brothels.

Also very much at issue is the treatment of the Ajeet Singh, the founder and director of Guria. Mr. Singh is a human rights defender and his status as one who is trying to safeguard the rights of children forced into prostitution must be recognized and protected by your office.

The date of the incident about which LRWC is writing is 6 March 2009

LRWC is writing to advise you of the reports received indicating non-cooperation of the local police stationed at Kotwali Police Outpost, Meerganj in Allahabad. We understand that the police have failed to act to prevent child prostitution within their jurisdiction, and indeed in the very neighborhood of their station. Moreover, it appears that there are elements within the local police organization who may be helping criminal elements in the local child prostitution organizations.

On 6 March, Guria obtained an order from the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Allahabad, directing local police to assist Guria to rescue approximately 70 children who had been forced into prostitution in Meerganj.
Mr. Ajeet Singh headed this effort.

The order was made at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time. The ADM directed the City Magistrate to accompany a team of police officers under the guidance of Mr. Ajeet Singh to rescue women and children illegally detained in brothels and houses in the red-light area of Allahabad city.

Since that time, the City Magistrate and Guria’s volunteers have been waiting for the local police to provide assistance. The Superintendent of Police of Allahabad City has persisted in refusing to provide police assistance citing inadeq uate excuses such as requiring more time to organize, needing fuel for police vehicles. Such inaction appears consistent with the allegation that certain persons in the police department are intentionally trying to protect criminals engaged in child prostitution in Allahabad and forestall the rescue of the children.

The Superintendent of Police also cited the excuse that police could organize the required personnel only by 7 p.m. knowing that police cannot under ordinary circumstances, enter a house to conduct a search after 7 p.m..

We are advised that, in the past, local police have made similar excuses, to give the brothel keepers enough time to move the women and children from the brothels to other places and further to destroy any evidence of forced prostitution.

On March 6, 2009, police did not arrive until about 6 pm. When they conducted a search, about 20 children were recovered from the custody of these brothels. However, according to the available information, there were about 70 other children to be rescued. After the 20 children were rescued, the police stated that they could not continue with the search. This decision to limit the search appears intended to assist the brothel owners to escape and take with them as many as 50 children.

The police then took only 17 of the 20 children who were rescued to the Kotwali Police Outpost along with Mr. Ajeet Singh of Guria. The remaning three were apparently taken away by the brothel owners.

Inside the police outpost, the police threatened and harassed Mr.
Ajeet Singh and accused him of interfering with police work and then threatened him, stating that they would register a fabricated charge against Ajeet, put him into custody, then take him by night from the police outpost, and shoot him, faking some sort of pretext “incident” to justify this conduct.

The Police initially refused to register a crime against the brothel keepers and others associated with them.

LRWC is concerned that the police intentionally failed to discharge their duty under the law and threatened those who protested and also permitted the suspects to escape with their child-victims, therefore perpetuating the crime of child prostitution.

Please advise us of action taken on this important case. We look forward to hearing from you.