Anarkali ko deewaro mein chunwa diya jaye. The pathos of the iconic Mughal-E-Azam dialogue comes back to haunt as we see girls at GB Road, in the film Amoli (which means priceless), hidden in a small, three-feet-wide claustrophobic walled entrapment cell. The girls look scared, unrelenting and untrusting. Eight girls are rescued, four of whom are minors. The camera shifts to West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri’s tea gardens, green and still, as still as Amoli’s family; she went missing five years ago. Jasmine Kaur Roy’s and Avinash Roy’s 29-minute documentary on commercial child trafficking and sexual exploitation was screened recently in Delhi’s Bikaner House at a Forum for Change event organised by Change.org and Youth Ki Awaaz.
The multilingual film, with subtitles in English and voiceovers in seven languages by actors Vidya Balan, Rajkummar Rao, Kamal Haasan, Jisshu Sengupta and Puneeth Rajkumar, is divided into four chapters Mol (price), Maya (illusion), Manthan (internal conflict) and Mukti (liberation). Produced by Culture Machine and available on YouTube, Amoli is a clarion call to the need to punish the customer and choke the demand.
“In India, a child goes missing every eight minutes. Nearly 3.6 million children are estimated to be trapped in sex slavery today,” states the film. “The exploitation is too rampant, too organised. Law enforcement isn’t able to carry out basic sensitisation, our systems don’t work,” says Ravi Kant, president of the NGO Shakti Vahini.
“The Banchhada families of Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur-Neemuch highway, where we shot, put their daughters into this business, as it’s their traditional occupation, and so it’s institutionalised,” says Avinash. When two girls are born, the prettier one is assigned for the flesh trade, the other is married off. At 11, they are put under the “internship” of elder girls to learn the tricks of the trade. By 12-13, they start work. Younger girls fetch Rs 400-500 a customer, the adults,
Swati Maliwal, chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women, says, “Delhi has a place called GB Road — 3km away from the Parliament and 200 metres from a police station — that hosts 5,000 women and 800 young children. We took an entire day to rescue 17 girls, and the police sent back 14 in front of our eyes, because dhanda shouldn’t stop even for a night.”
The National Award-winning filmmakers and Film and Television Institute of India alumni, Avinash and Jasmine have been making films on development issues for 10 years. They took six-seven months to research for this film, meeting girls, brokers/traffickers, grass-root organisations. “Following a tip-off, we went looking for a missing girl in a particular chai bagan lane in Jalpaiguri. We didn’t find her or her family, but while we spoke with women there, one of whom pointed at the others, saying, ‘hers is missing too, hers too, hers too’, we realised how widespread this problem is,” says Avinash.
Amoli, in the film, is one of those girls, whose broker was her own maternal uncle, who was respected in the village for being an agent providing jobs to the youngsters. So long as the money keeps coming, the families keep quiet, once the money stops and the families lodge police complaints, it gets way too late by then, and their daughters are lost in the black hole.
Amoli tells the survivor stories of girls, some, even after being rescued/rehabilitated, aren’t accepted back in their families. “There are source (e.g. Bengal’s 24 Parganas district, Assam, Bihar), transit and destination (e.g. Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad) areas,” says Jasmine, “Every child is vulnerable, and important. It’s not about the numbers.”
“The real resolution has to be inner transformation,” says Adil Hussain. He plays the father of a trafficked child in his two recent films, the Marathi Sunrise and Demi Moore-starrer Love Sonia. Objectification is propagated in so many Bollywood films, says Hussain, “It is glorified. Including the last film touted as a women’s film (Veere Di Wedding), which is not at all. “There’s a sheer lack of awareness and empathy.”