Police recently arrested a priest in Mumbai for sexually exploiting girls under the guise of embodying a spirit, the priest telling the families they would receive divine financial favor. Upon his arrest, the priest admitted to raping at least 22 girls. IJM was alerted to the case by an official who had recently attended an IJM training and asked for logistical assistance. Since January 2015, IJM Mumbai has trained more than 3,500 police and police trainees in the state of Maharashtra on how to handle human trafficking cases.
MUMBAI, INDIA — He was a “baba,” a Hindu priest who had been sexually exploiting young girls. He claimed he had the ability to embody a djinn, “a spirit,” who would make money rain down on a virgin’s family if the spirit was sexually satisfied.
His network of loyal suppliers would go out into the city and prey on vulnerable families who were desperate for a way out of poverty. The suppliers then brought the girls to the baba.
A Partnership Toward Justice
In February, IJM Mumbai Field Office Director Sanjay Macwan received a call from a top police official asking for IJM’s help in this case. This official had recently attended the first of IJM’s police trainings for sex trafficking cases. At that training, the Police Commissioner had delivered a clear message to police: trafficking is a serious issue and one that needs to be investigated thoroughly. Pulling down the trafficking networks was vital, he said.
A week after the training, the police official contacted IJM and requested logistical assistance with a complicated case his team was investigating.
The team agreed, Sanjay saying, “This was a great opportunity for IJM to solidify a working relationship with police in this area. Through these trainings, not only are police gaining further insight into the way traffickers are working, IJM too is gaining new insights into the big picture of the trafficking world.”
In the months following, police worked with IJM field workers to document this case and prepare for the complex operation. The days were often long and time-consuming, filled with calls between police and IJM staff.
Then the police contacted IJM late in the afternoon of May 6: tomorrow would be the day.
Girl Rescued from Ritual
At about 8:30am on May 7, IJM’s operations team including field workers, the police liaison, a social worker and a lawyer met with the Special Police Inspector of the Child Protection Unit.
A supplier, Jaya*, had convinced a family to give over their 15-year-old daughter for the promise of great wealth. Bringing Naina* to the baba, the man confirmed that if he had sex with her, he could cause the paiso ki barish, “the rainfall of money.”
The baba told her the djinn will come and take the form of himself, so she should not be scared.
“You should tell the djinn ‘I am your servant and I will serve you with my body and soul,’” the baba told Naina.
He said that once she served the djinn’s needs, she could ask the djinn for whatever she wanted. He sat on the ground, and began to chant, looking into Naina’s eyes. She was so scared, she started to cry.
“If you say no to the djinn, he won’t be happy and you won’t get the money,” Jaya barked at Naina. She tried to calm herself down, and the baba continued with the ritual.
Before the baba could hurt Naina, police and IJM staff arrived.
“The girl was very frightened when we entered,” IJM police liaison Amrit said. “He had brought some incense out and he had a candle ready. He had one table that was set up with something drawn on the table. He had a few things kept ready to move forward with the pooja (ritual).”
While examining the apartment, police found marijuana and a variety of “how to” books on hypnosis and healing rituals.
The baba admitted to police he had raped at least 22 girls in the past. Both the baba and Jaya were arrested on the spot. They are still in police custody, and local prosecutors will handle the case.
A Time for Healing
An IJM social worker stayed with Naina for the next 24 hours, helping record her statement and accompanying her to the hospital for a medical examination.
On the day of the rescue, Naina told IJM staff, “I prayed someone would come and rescue me, and then you appeared.”
Naina spent the weekend in the hospital, and she is now staying in an aftercare home. IJM social workers have accompanied her to the court for her official statement. IJM will continue to support her throughout her recovery.