The first time she read about her death was in a Hindi newspaper while working as a domestic help in Noida. The news report in May declared her dead — chopped to pieces and dumped in a drain in Miyanwali Nagar when she demanded her salary from the human traffickers who brought her to Delhi. A childhood photograph shot in her village in Jharkhand accompanied the report that called her a “minor”. That’s when she decided, it was time to go home to her mother.
“I fainted after reading the report, it said my brother identified my body… I wanted to tell my family that I was alive. The newspaper also said that I was 16 years old but I am 22,” the woman told The Indian Express over the phone from her village.
In what appears to be a case of mistaken identity, the Delhi Police arrested three persons in May and claimed to crack the case of a 16-year-old trafficking victim found dead in outer Delhi. The police identified the girl on the basis of a spot visit by an ACP-rank officer with a photograph provided by one of the accused.
On November 16, the woman in the photograph reached her home in Jharkhand. Police are now probing where they went wrong — and who the dead girl really is.
The thana in-charge of the Jharkhand village, Vikas Kumar, said that a Delhi Police team contacted the woman who conveyed that she was trafficked to Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh and later Noida. “She also told them that she repeatedly told PCR staff in Vasant Kunj, who rescued her from the streets, that her murder was covered in the newspapers,” he said.
Jharkhand’s Welfare Minister Dr Lois Marandi told The Indian Express: “The news report led to a debate in Jharkhand on strengthening the Placement Agency Act with even the Chief Minister taking strong measures. Several agencies were blacklisted, raids took place, and an
office was set up in Delhi to ensure that trafficking victims are rehabilitated.”
The woman, meanwhile, said that after being taken to Delhi by a man called Ravinder, she was sent to Tamil Nadu to work with a family of six. Her next stop was a house in Chandigarh, and then Noida from where she ran away with a bloody nose. After she roamed around Delhi for a few days, she was rescued by a PCR staffer from Vasant Kunj who took her to the shelter home run by the NGO, Earth Saviours Foundation, in Haryana.
“In Tamil Nadu, I cried a lot, and was scared of being beaten by Ravinder. I used to cook, clean and bathe two children at the house. I was never given any money and Ravinder turned up two months later and took me to Chandigarh,” said the woman.
In Chandigarh, the woman worked at a house of four, before being taken to Noida where she alleged that the female employer assaulted her when she over-boiled milk for the child of the house. It was there that the woman read the report about her murder — and decided to run away. “I begged for food and water on the streets. A policeman rescued me, and I told him I was declared dead by newspapers and wanted to go back home. I was taken to an NGO in Haryana,” she said.
Since her return, along with a member of the NGO, the woman has decided never to leave the village, and to forgive her brother who “identified a body as hers”. She now works at a field six hours away.
Rupa Verma, chairperson of the Child Welfare Commission in Ranchi, told The Indian Express: “We will record the woman’s statement on Monday. Also, a medical test will be conducted to ascertain her age. We don’t want to take any chances.”