Our Kolkata team first heard about Padma (name changed) on an Anti Human Trafficking Whatsapp chat room. Her picture was circulated and her details shared. We verified the information with the police as well as contacted Padma’s home who shared that she was missing since 3 July, the day she left home to start her life with Vinay(name changed.) Padma’s parents shared the information Padma had shared with them  – she was in Pune living in a white building surrounded by many trees and she was with a man named Vinay.

To rescue Padma, we explained to Padma’s parents that they needed to file a FIR against Vinay, which they immediately did. After which we set out to rescue Padma from Vinay’s evil clutches.

Operation Padma

On 4 September, reliable intel had led us to an apartment building in a busy street in Pune where we believed Padma was staying. Our social worker and a volunteer proceeded to the apartment building. The first floor had seven one room units and six of them were locked. After their constant knocking yielded no result,  they went to the next floor. They knocked on one door. It was opened by an elderly woman who then gave our social worker a brief summary of the occupants of all the rooms. When she shared that the man living on the first floor locked his wife in the room and went to work, our social worker felt strongly they had located Padma. She passed the information on to our team and the police who were waiting for us to confirm Padma’s presence.

Our social worker exited the apartment building and waited in a nearby restaurant. There was no sign of Vinay yet.  At about 4 pm, the rest of our team made their way towards the apartment building. While our social worker was walking towards the apartment building, a bike passed her. A glimpse of the rider revealed that it was Vinay.  Before our social worker could react, the police called her and confirmed that Vinay had just arrived and went into the apartment building.  The team got into action.  The social worker and volunteer started to climb the stairs when two men started climbing the stairs along with them.  When they asked the man about the couple, he pointed to the opposite apartment and said that is where the man and his wife were staying. Our social worker knocked on the door. Vinay opened the door. Our social worker recognised him and Padma who was with him. Our social worker alerted the police who barged in and apprehended Vinay.

Padma had two black eyes and bruises across her face.  When questioned about them, she brushed it off saying she slipped in the bathroom. In a mechanical way she shared that she was living with her husband and yes they were happy, and like other couples they had fights. She asked if her mother sent us or lodged a complaint against her husband. Our team escorted her to the police station where the initial formalities were conducted. She kept repeating that she wouldn’t return to Kolkata.  Only on the way to the Police Commissioner’s office the false bravado evaporated and a totally broken Padma shared that her family, friends and everyone she knew in Kolkata had probably seen her compromising pictures that Vinay had posted. She could never go back home. Vinay even threatened that if she ever left him, he would release more explicit pictures of her. We assured her that she was safe now. 

For the last few weeks, Padma has been living in a private shelter home in Pune. She’s made a few friends, is being counselled and is even being encouraged to complete her education. We are hoping that in time this young girl will leave the trauma of the last few months behind and choose to lead a productive and happy life.

There are many more girls like Padma who fall prey to men like Vinay. They go looking for love and find themselves forced into a life of sexual slavery. Consider supporting Freedom Firm’s rescue work among vulnerable girls and women in India. Click here to contribute