September 14: Four Girls Freed
The wave of rescues began when IJM assisted police in saving four girls from a private sex trafficking network in Kolkata. The youngest girl was only 13 years old. She and the others were moved around constantly by traffickers who were selling them for sex in homes and apartments—making it very difficult for authorities to pinpoint their location.
The first attempt to rescue these girls failed, but after a relentless search all of the victims were finally brought to safety. Today they are recovering in an aftercare shelter, and five suspects are facing charges for abusing them. Read about this rescue in The Times of India.
September 18: Ten Years Enslaved
Momentum continued on Monday, September 18, when IJM Chennai supported government officials in freeing one family who had been trapped in bonded labor slavery for ten years.
This family had taken a small loan from the owner of a rock quarry, but he forced them to work in grueling conditions and manipulated their debt to keep them trapped. The family was isolated in a tiny, thatched house away from the village; no one knew they were being exploited as bonded labor slaves. Several of the children were even born at the quarry.
Today all nine members of this family are safe, and they’re being supported by local government partners to rebuild life in freedom. After a decade of deceit and violence, the man who enslaved them has been taken into custody and charged under India’s anti-slavery laws. Read more about this case in The Hindu and watch a short local-language news clip.
September 18: Seven Child Shepherds Safe
On that same day, IJM Delhi worked with our trained partner NGO Jan Sahas to free seven children who were enslaved as shepherds in a rural area. The youngest boy is only 7 years old. He and the other children were forced to walk sheep across huge distances to graze, leaving the boys vulnerable to hunger, exhaustion and exposure under the hot Indian sun.
After the successful rescue, these children are now being taken care of by local officials and Jan Sahas staff, and the investigation will continue into how they became enslaved.
September 19: One Woman, One Dark Brothel
On Tuesday evening, IJM Mumbai and local police rescued one young woman who was trafficked into a cramped brothel in a major red-light district. She and other women stayed in one large room with four beds separated by flimsy curtains. Night after night, she was forced to sell her body and was desperate for release.
Even amid relentless monsoon rains, IJM and police worked through the night to bring this woman to safety and document the tactics traffickers used to exploit her. Police arrested two suspects and officially closed the abusive brothel as the trial proceeds.
September 20: Two-Day Rescue Frees 28
Continuing the week’s momentum, IJM Bangalore assisted anti-trafficking authorities on a two-day operation to free 28 people from a sugarcane farm.
These eight families had been forced to live in deplorable conditions—just a few make-shift huts made from tarps, branches and soil—and had to cut sugarcane for hours on end. The traffickers who exploited them also moved the families frequently between farms, which made it very difficult for officials to plan the rescue at just the right location.
After a long night and day of gathering evidence and confirming details, local officials granted release certificates to the 18 laborers who had been forced to work in the farm (not including children and the elderly). Police also filed charges against the traffickers who trapped the families in such brutal conditions, and these suspects are currently in custody.
September 22: Triple Rescues Free Dozens in One Day
Concluding the 8-day streak, IJM teams in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata supported local authorities in three successful rescue operations on Friday.
In Chennai, officials acted on IJM’s reports of several families trapped in slavery in a wood-cutting unit, where they chopped down trees for hours on end and fired the wood into charcoal. The dismal conditions in which these 11 people lived moved the authorities to quick action—with charges filed against their owner even before the rescue team left the worksite. Today, the families have been officially freed by the government and are recovering in safety. Learn more about this case from The Times of India.
In Mumbai, IJM joined police in an operation targeting two young women being exploited in a private sex trafficking network. They were finally located in a suburban apartment and rescued before they could be sold for sex again. Police also arrested two suspects involved in exploiting these young women for sex at a huge profit. Read about this rescue in The Hindu.
The final rescue came late on Friday evening, when IJM’s team in Kolkata worked with authorities to search for two teenagers being sold for sex in a hotel. When the team arrived, however, they found 26 girls and young women being exploited and managed to bring them to safety. Police also arrested 30 suspects—including traffickers, customers and pimps—and gathered sufficient evidence to charge them under India’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws.
88 Freed, Thousands Protected
Altogether, the 8-day rescue streak freed 88 people from bonded labor slavery and sex trafficking across India. Today, these children, women and men are beginning new lives in freedom and—with traffickers, pimps and slave owners now in custody—thousands more are safer from ever being abused.
This type of consistent, collaborate work alongside local authorities helps create an undeniable case for the urgency and prevalence of these crimes. IJM is grateful for all the support of local officials enforcing the laws against slavery and ushering in a new era of protection for the poor.