EMPOWER PEOPLE Blog
Founder of EMPOWER PEOPLE Shafiqur Rahman Khan was invited to speak about his life and works in fourth edition of TIDES summit organized by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Coimbatore. It was a great opportunity to promote our cause and encourage others to be a part of solution. we are sharing text of that speech for our supporters and volunteers.
Ladies and gentle men
Thank you so much for having me here
First of all I thank Chairman of CII Mr. Ravi sam for inviting me here and kunal Valecha for making my visit possible through his arrangements, I would also like to apologies for my inept public speaking. You can find everything in my mind at time, arguments, counter-arguments, philosophy-reality, right-left, fresh ideas and even scraps everything, actually I advocate ideology of confusion, be confused, keep learning……
Let me introduce myself
In 1998 I joined a radical Naxal group when I was in 8th class and since then I never attended any formal education, which is oveaesly reflects on my personality attitude as well as pronunciation, but thank God there was IGNOU who helped me to continue my study and I got my degree. During the party days I owned true life experiences, understandings and base of ideologies, I witnessed cruel face of society, government and police. There are many memories in my mind there are many images of society, After 3 years I decided to directly work with the community and I with my friends founded a group namely Career development corner, the word career was used to show our sprit to combat ideology of violence as revolutionaries always hate careerists. The group CDC was sort of sustainable chain education system and we were covering dropout children and illiterate parents, it was amazingly supported by youths as well as illiterate adults especially women. Within 8 months our centers were opened in 23 blocks of Gaya District of Bihar. we were covering a large number of people under this scheme, in 2004 I decided to move Delhi and started my works with migrant laborers, meanwhile I was in search of root causes of discrimination, in 2005 I realized that Gender is primary unit of discrimination as parents and keens teach us to discriminate our own sisters brothers or others on the basis of sex, I decided to work on, me and my friends started a foot march against female feticide to mobilize people’s movement against the discrimination based on sex. during this march we met a trafficked bride in Jind of Haryana she was seeking help from us, she wanted to go back to her home in Bihar unfortunately my friends suggested me to avoid such matter. I assured her of help after finishing the march, but we somehow forgot her
More than two month later I was again in the same village and I asked about that girl and shocked to learn that she was sold to some other village, we tried to find her in another village but without success, meanwhile I met many such other women like her, I came back to Delhi and contacted almost all big NGOs and other institutions to do something for these girls, but everyone had their own area of operation and agendas.
We decided to start an organization EMPOWER PEOPLE which exclusively works for issue of Bride Trafficking, and then we had two choose practical idea was to work like others in source area of trafficking or on transit point, but we were not willing to eyewash work for our own satisfaction. we pledged to vanish the menace of bride trafficking and decided to work in destination area of trafficking, we wanted to start immediate rescue operations but there was a problem police was never willing to rescue any girl, some time they threaten us, we were young and I was leader of team, the police, judiciary even NGOs were not ready to rely on young people, even at this stage people ignore us especially me as young man, even if I have so much grey hair on my scalp, police never cooperated us, donor never funded, judiciary was not interested,
I would like to share an interesting case with you.
We got a phone call from ladwa block of kurukshetra that a minor bride has been kept by a farmer and she was being brutally abused, I approached the local police to rescue her, Police inspector refused to intervene in the case and asked me that why I was interested in that girl, I said Im citizen of India and I have right to lodge a complaint if I find something wrong. He said why I don’t lodge complaints against my own community people who are exploding bombs here and there. I was speechless and went to meet superintendent of police, he said the police inspector was a fool why did he leave you for complaining, he should have shot you and made a case of encounter, bhag sale yahan se……
Oh it was amazing experience I was first time abused like this, but I was determined to rescue that girl, and I asked my friends to help me in this case but they refused to help me, and two of our team members left the organization, later I came to know that police called them to not to enter in their area. Well, It was first challenge and I decided to rescue her alone, one of my friend was there to help me he was local man who informed me about her, we decided that Dinesh will convince her to runaway from home in the evening and we will wait on main road of the village, oh it was a successful operation she was saved, we reached in pipli the kurukshetra town and approached the police the girl gave her statement and finely she was produced before duty magistrate, it was our first rescue operation, since then we rescued 255 girls within a span of 3 years. and most of operations were like the first one.
Look I am not hero nor robin hood it was our Helplessness, we are not against the law, no one was willing to support us, so we started that
in 2008 we split, our team members wanted to start their career and unfortunately as a team leader I had no business plan which could have stoped them from breaking, many of my brave friends who never defeated by any problem were left in favor of secure life, in these three year we together enjoyed life of passion for others, but It was a depressive year I decided to migrate once again in August 2008 I moved to shimla to overcome from my frustration, in fact, My first and second book was published in Shimla days, I was associated with an organization there to earn my bread- butter and researching on pornography and sex tourism, August 2008 to August 2009 was only relaxed days. I studied I worked and enjoyed a lot. in September 2009 I decided to come back on my battle ground with a clear understanding that we need to work on demand side not supply and rescuing is not a part of solution. I meant trafficking depends on demands, if we discourage the demand trafficking can be stopped like any product needs its market. And without market no production would possible. We decided to engage men especially youths in our work with an inclusive approach, we started sensitization workshops and field seminars on discrimination of every type. After building a reputation with the community we started a community based action against bride trafficking in Mewat of Haryana the rest is result The organization has 17,000 membership base under 20 Community based Organizations led by bride trafficking survivors across the ten states of the country who contribute and supports to our field campaigns, offices and day to day activity,
The social crimes are simply a crime against law but it is well organized and conducted with a support of particular community or society, this is the stage where a democratic state and law comes to death. The social crime could be honour killings, organized gang rapes, different forms of trafficking or some appears in a avtar of ideology which I don’t like to mention here. Im here to talk about the issues which we are covering since 2005, and these are sex selective abortion, organized rape, honor crimes also known as domestic violence, honor killings, dowry and trafficking especially bride trafficking,
Issue of bride trafficking is most misunderstood issue in India, it came into light after a long time but it was practiced since atleast mughal India, Traffickers are known as Burda-frosh among villagers, word Burda-farosh is a Persian term which mean slave traders, many folk lores and other regional stories talks about bride trafficking, but in modern time it has became a worse means of slavery. The bride trafficking victims are called Paro which means stolen Molki which means purchased women. Jugad means arrangement and many other words which obviously abusive words. these words are common only for trafficked girls, no one can use these words for local girls, and every trafficked bride is sold to 4 to ten times and if you want to know number of girls it is estimated that every village has more than ten girls who were trafficked sold and abused, before you ask I have to share why this be called bride trafficking? people in eastern India called it thug vivaha means fake marriages, this is a form of trafficking where traffickers are using institution marriage, some youths go to poverty stricken areas or some area affected by riots or natural disaster and perform marriage with local girls claiming that he want to help parents of the girl.
Have you heard a statement of a sirsa Haryana based Guru who was widely criticized as he said that his followers are ready to help uttarakhand people by marring their daughters??
People are exactly doing this, we have done some cases of girls trafficked during the Gujrat riot, kandhamal riot and recently kokrajhar riot and all of them were married to some men by their parents to protect them from rowdies, most of the girls first sold on Delhi or Ambala railway stations by their socalled husbands, and then they stay for some days with girl and sold to another, its purely criminal thing, but Only because traffickers and community are using word marriage and bride we called it bride trafficking.
so why they are importing these girls only for sex?
No not at all sexual pleasure is additional feature since traffickeds are women, the community is importing laborers on zero cost, Have you ever heard that Punjab and Haryana faced acute shortage of labourers for their agricultural field. Can you imagine every fifth person in ludhiyana are Purabiya people of east and 100% of them are laborers. The reason of import of girls is closely related to this,
There is also something in tradition of sex and marriage,
the polyandry and levirate marriages are still present in some way. bride trafficking is cocktail of greed, need and cultural belongings.
the root cause is not poverty, nor employment, the economic development does not mean social development, ironically Donors never understand this very fact and they never supported my cause, the truth is economic development without social development and behavior change is dangerous for larger community or society, a traditionalist mind with modern technology will always misuse the power which he earned from economic development, Most of Panchayats near by Delhi banned the use of mobile phone, songs, television and even chaumin yaar only because they believe technologies and western values are corrupting people. Most of village girls are not permitted to use cosmetics, Im talking about villages of western uttar Pradesh and Haryana close to Delhi. if someone from cosmetic industry you can imagine your loss, a large section who have good purchased power to buy your products are forced away from your products by society.
Most of men who keep these girls always claims that the girl is my bride but that doesn’t reflect in any record they have no voter id card their names don’t appears in ration card,BPL APL cards or any others. the main stream society I mean to say sanskratized family of village never accept them as community member, villagers always avoid them to invite these girls in any family functions, most of girls who passed their 30th years of their age can be found deserted and roaming in and around villages, the men who sheltered them are usually older, handicapped or unemployed some time mentally challenged, and they give them shelter only because Girl can take care of them. By earning and even household work, Most of girls have forgot their background because of high mental trauma and some time situation in native areas,
So how we work with trafficked girl, we are trying to establish their identity first by registering them in voter list ration cards or any other document, we are organizing them into a village commune where trafficked brides come to sit together and we try to trained them to work on social crimes, now a days our girl are able to sting and rescue operations, case dealing with courts and laisening in government offices for local women, we are holding accountable their socalled husbands, our primary agenda is clear if you says one is your wife you have to give her all the rights of a wife. In some cases girls wants to live independently, we encourage them to do so. Many panchayats and villages given them a small land to live respectfully, We also provide life skill trainings to them. But primary focus is only social empowerment. only then they can be able to send their children to schools, but in some cases where girls want to go back their home we try to send them back but it has never been a full proof solution as 66% total repatriated girls have been found to be retrafficked due to socio-economic problem in their native places. Since 2009 we have rescued more than 400 girls who are emerging social leaders, we also formed survivor’s commune in more than 200 villages of Haryana and Punjab. Our campaigns led by trafficking survivors exists in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh while we are working to sensitize people in source areas like uttarakhand jhanrkhand bihar west bangal and assam as well. We have 600 Peoples anti trafficking vigilance groups on rout of Bride trafficking from Assam to Punajb via Delhi. These groups are led by people in general,
If you think we are supporting criminals by avoiding legal actions, look at the latest data release by national crime record bureau the arrest rate for people accused of “kidnapping and abduction of women and girls” is only 3.7%. and conviction in trafficking is 0. We believe in module of Rajaram mohan rai we advocate social movement against the social crimes, so we find the root cause and then attack on that with a modest way.
We work with police judiciary and other administrative units especially panchayti Raj system, and we are going to fight election from Mewat for legislative assembly. Bride trafficking survivor and leader of our Mewat initative Ghaushia khan will fill her candidature from Nuh seat. We hope the election will help us in politicization of the cause and bride trafficking survivors will be acknowledged as mainstream leaders or community members. I invite you all to contribute this campaign of love peace and passion.
You all have voice let Communize for our girls
Thank you so much