On 20th August, we received a lead about a minor girl being forced into prostitution at a lodge in Shevgoan, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.  We decided to investigate the matter further. 

The next day,  21 August, we met the Superintendent of Police, SP, of Ahmednagar District and shared the minor’s information with him. The SP directed the team to the head of the Anti human-trafficking unit.  The team shared the victim’s information with him and together they worked on a rescue strategy.  The victim was approximately 70 kms from Ahmednagar City.

 At around 5:30 pm, the police, two panch (third party) witnesses and our team, drove to the victim’s location.  Once they reached near the location, they formed two teams. After receiving confirmation that the victim was present in the lodge and was engaging with a customer, the first team raided the lodge and covered the entrance and the second team covered the exit. The first team rushed to the first floor – the first floor had four rooms. The victim was in one of the rooms with a customer. The other three rooms were unoccupied. We located a major girl in the restroom.  The team covering the exit started searching the ground floor. They found the 34-year old brothel keeper, 40-year old brothel manager and a 17 year old transporter (driver.) All 3 were arrested.

A lodge on the outside, a brothel on the inside

 The police proceeded to seal the evidence they found at the lodge; 7 packets of condoms, 5 high end mobile phones, CCTV footage from the lodge and Rs 3,900 in cash.  After this,  the victims, perpetrators, and both teams returned to the police station in Shevgoan.  Statements were recorded, evidence documented, and complaints filed. The First Information Report was only completed at 2 am on 22 August.

The brothel manager is no stranger to us. He is a habitual offender, a notorious criminal and kingpin of several illegal activities. This is our third case against him. The first two times he was able to get out on bail. This time we are ready to go all the way up to the Supreme Court to ensure he receives a just punishment for his many heinous crimes.

 While our liaison officer was attending to the legalities,  the social workers provided immediate care and counselling to the victims – both girls claimed they were from West Bengal. The aftercare team accompanied the girls and police constable to the hospital for a medical check up.

There was some resistance from the police inspector in the Shevgoan police station to send the girls to a shelter home. Our team had to protest and bring to his notice the high court order and standard operating procedures of the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act. Only after this, the police inspector relented and sent a request letter that both victims be admitted to a shelter home in Ahmednagar.

In spite of showing the request letter to a NGO run shelter home, the girls were denied admission. The social workers took them to a one stop centre, and once again the girls were denied admission in a centre that is solely meant for victims of sexual and domestic violence. After being rescued, both victims were denied shelter for 30 hours and continued sitting in the vehicle that had rescued them only a few hours ago. The Freedom Firm team remained with them and took care of their needs, the police’s presence made attending to the girls possible. The legal team has decided to address this matter in court.

At 1 pm on 22 August, the victims were produced in Shevgoan court.  After the order was passed, the girls were sent to a shelter home in Pune.  Currently, both victims are safe and our team is working on the next steps – ensuring the accused don’t get out on bail and  preparing to conduct a home investigation.