On Friday, justice was served for 12 former bonded labor slaves, as the wealthy brick kiln owner who had once trapped and abused them was found guilty for his crimes.
Back in 2010, this kiln owner had personally recruited impoverished women and men from small villages several hours outside Bangalore. He promised the families good wages to work in his kiln, but instead forced them to labor more than 12 hours a day for only a fraction of their promised pay.
The families were constantly supervised, could never leave the kiln, and could not even talk to one another as they toiled all day in the hot sun making bricks by hand. If any laborers escaped, the owner and his henchmen tracked them down and dragged them back.
In August 2014, IJM partnered with anti-trafficking police, local police and district officials to conduct a rescue operation at the facility and bring all 12 laborers and their young children to safety.
“They were so ready to leave,” remembers IJM’s Esther Daniel. “When we walked into the facility, I motioned to two women holding children. They just ran toward us. We could physically feel their desire to be free and out of that horrible situation.”
The kiln owner was arrested and held in custody for more than 100 days, which is significant when many slave owners are never arrested or held at all. IJM supported the legal trial over the next two and half years, as strong survivor testimonies and solid evidence from the police sustained the case in court until the conviction last week.
On March 10, 2017, the kiln owner was found guilty under India’s Bonded Labor System Abolition Act (1976) and Section 370 of the penal code, which covers human trafficking.
The 2.5-year trial was one of the shortest IJM has seen—and the 10-year sentence was one of the longest in any bonded labor trafficking case in India. These are all promising signs for the remaining fight against modern-day slavery.