“One time, in anger, didi took off all my clothes and threw hot water from the geyser on my back. Didi hit me on the head with a rolling pin and split it open. She hit me on my hand with loha (iron) or the rolling pin. She tied my hands behind my back with the doggy belt and my legs with a chunni. Then she tied a polythene on my mouth to stop me from breathing.” This is the statement of a 13-year-old domestic help to the Haryana State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
The child, employed as a domestic help in Faridabad over the last three years, was rescued Wednesday when she attempted to climb into the neighbour’s balcony to escape further torture. She fell off and landed on the balcony of an empty flat below. She was rescued five hours late after her employer alerted guards, police said.
The child came to Faridabad from Patna in 2014, and started working as a domestic help at the flat of 22-year-old Sneha Yadav, an engineering student at Manav Rachna University. Sneha was granted bail by a district court on Friday. The girl’s parents, who reached Delhi on Thursday, work in the mines of Sneha’s father, Sanjay Yadav, in Patna. They hadn’t seen their daughter for the last three years — a period during which she was allegedly tortured and beaten.
The alleged ordeal inside house C-1101, however, remained hidden from residents of Kanishka Towers in Faridabad’s Sector 34. The flat is located on the top floor, and only two of the five other flats in the tower are occupied.
“She (Sneha) never seemed interested in interacting, so we did not make an effort either. We never heard anything from the flat, but that could be because the child’s screams were muffled,” said a resident who did not wish to be named.
However, another resident claimed, “Supervisors and guards knew about it, and they tried to convince the woman to stop troubling the girl. Apparently, she promised to send her back to Patna, so they dropped the matter.”
Narender Kumar Sharma, executive member of the residents’ welfare association, said, “Sneha kept to herself. Nobody from here has been to her flat.” While the guards refused to comment, the supervisor, Devender, said, “We do not interfere in what happens in residents’ homes. I didn’t know this was going on, nor did anyone approach me.”
Although the child was often seen walking her employer’s dog or going to buy groceries, nobody had spoken to her. “I noticed injury marks on her hand once, but didn’t ask her about it,” said an employee at a local shop.
In her statement to the State Commission, the child said, “If I ever spoke to anyone while coming or going from the lift, she (Sneha) would get angry.” Unable to confide in anyone, she spent the day doing “all the housework, cooking food, sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, washing clothes, bathing the dog and combing its fur”.
In her statement, she also said that “there were cameras all over didi’s house”. “She would check the cameras every evening, see what work had been done. Only after that would she give me food,” the girl said.
Police sources said a lot of the footage from the cameras is missing. Commissioner of Police Hanif Qureshi said, “The footage the cameras may or may not have captured is a matter of investigation.”
Recalling her escape bid, the child stated: “That day, didi had been hitting me since night. My head had been spinning since morning but she forced me to work. When she was in the bathroom, I decided to jump from the 11th floor and run away. But she saw me and grabbed my hand. I slipped and fell on the 10th-floor balcony.”
She was rescued by residents, who took her to the police station, and then to the Child Welfare Committee. While Faridabad Police is preparing to challenge the accused’s bail order in a sessions court, the girl has been admitted to a hospital. She has also been put under police protection so that she is not coerced into changing her statement.
“The child is in desperate need of medical attention. We will not hand over her custody to her parents. This appears to be a case of bonded labour, and they were the ones who put her into it,” Bal Krishan Goel, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said.