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An alleged sex worker waiting for ‘customers’ at the gate of the lane near Silchar Sadar police station.

An alleged sex worker waiting for ‘customers’ at the gate of the lane near Silchar Sadar police station.

Decades-old red-light area a stone’s throw away from police station

An organised red-light area with around 15 brothels just around 200 metres away from Silchar Sadar police station in Assam! This is all but true, and the more shameful truth is that policemen are the “guardians” of these brothels!

Two former sex workers from Shillong – one escaped and the other rescued from these brothels in 2012 – led a team of Meghalaya and Assam police recently to rescue one more woman, who spend five years there after being lured away by a pimp for a job.

“All the houses, around 14-15, in the lane run the dhanda (prostitution),” Lila (name changed), who ran away from there last year, told The Meghalaya Guardian.

“It’s like a jail. During my two years of stay, I was hardly allowed to come out of it. Once in a blue moon we were allowed to go for shopping but there would be people around us.

“We cannot even ask for police help since we know they are regularly paid by our owners,” Lila said.

Sources in Meghalaya police aware of the existence of the red-light area also expressed surprise, saying, “It is very strange that such a set up exists just near the police station. We can vouch that such things cannot exist even for an hour in Shillong.”

The raid, conducted in the wee hours of November 20 on the basis of an FIR filed by Lila in Shillong that there were women from Meghalaya held captive in the brothels, was allegedly delayed by the Assam police giving enough time for the trafficking racket to hide the girls.

“According to the initial plan made with Assam CID, the joint police team from Shillong and Guwahati was supposed to make a surprise raid without informing the local police. But the police team from Guwahati led us to the Silchar Sadar police station where we had to wait for hours,” said Agnes Kharshiing, president of Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO).

Kharshiing was accompanying the Meghalaya police team since she was involved in the rescue of the two girls last year from the same brothel.

“We failed to understand the reason behind taking us to the same police station, against which the girls gave statements,” Kharshiing said.

“The entrance was just 200 metres away and there were shortcuts too to allow any policeman of the police station to alert the brothel owners,” she added.

“The Meghalaya police team was helpless in front of the Assam police since it was their area,” Lila, who now wants to be a whistleblower against women trafficking, said.

Lila and Evelyn (name changed), both from Shillong, made no hesitation in revealing that the Assam police personnel were utterly apathetic towards conducting the raid.

“One senior policeman was even asking for cigarette from the No. 2 brothel owner, Suku Debnath, during the raid,” Lila said.

Though police rescued one woman and her child from Debnath’s brothel, the latter was not arrested.

“Suku Debnath used to claim before us that she pays Rs 30,000 to the police station every month insisting us to ‘work’ day and night,” Lila, who spent around five years before being rescued in 2012, alleged.

Meanwhile, sources in the Assam police from Guwahati also admitted existence of the organised red-light area near the Silchar Sadar police station.

The sources also said the brothels have been running at the same place for decades.

In fact, Evelyn, who was rescued after Lila’s escape, was caught by policemen on guard at the gate of the lane one midnight when she was trying to escape along with a sympathetic ‘customer’.

“The policemen took money from the person, who was from Jowai, and asked him to leave and brought me to the police station. I was taken back to the No. 14 brothel by my owner Gita the next morning. She gave money to the cops in front of me and scolded me that she had to pay for my ‘fault’,” Evelyn said.

Both Evelyn and Lila are now staying in the same house with Lila’s family and doing part time jobs of housekeeping in Shillong.

(Published in The Meghalaya Guardian as lead story on January 24, 2014)

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