Mumbai: Pregnant Manipuri woman 'detained' in rehab home

Picked up from a spa, court will only release her to her father in their village in the presence of state welfare officials

This is not how Nishi (name changed to protect identity) had envisaged her pregnancy would go. The 19-year-old woman from Manipur, who is four months pregnant, was arrested under flesh trade charge in March from a massage parlour in Borivli only on the second day of her job and sent to a women’s shelter.

For nearly two months now, her family has been struggling to get her out of the shelter. It claims that Nishi is no sex worker.

The court issued an order for her release last month, but put a rider: that she be handed over to only her father back at their home in Manipur in the presence of state-run welfare institute officials. Since then, neither has the family been allowed to see her nor has any pregnancy medication been given to her.

Nishi’s 65-year-old father has now filed a review application in the sessions court, asking that he be granted her custody in Mumbai itself. The plea will be taken up on Tuesday.

Family first
Nishi arrived in Mumbai from a village in Manipur two months ago, hoping to bring her family back from the brink of despair. Her mother has been bedridden since she was paralysed three years ago and her father’s meagre income as a farmer barely meets the medical needs. Nishi, who dropped out of school after Std X, had married last year.

During the job hunt in the city, she approached a massage parlour — Aura Thai Spa — at Satra Park in Borivli West and was asked to join as a masseuse on March 29. Two days later, the police raided the parlour for indulging in flesh trade and rescued many women under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act. The women were produced in court and sent to a rehabilitation centre in Kandivli and then to another in Boisar.

The ordeal
Nishi managed to call her brother-in-law back home the night of the raid. “I got a call late at night. She was crying and said she had been arrested. I called the manager of the massage parlour, who claimed it (the arrest) was a routine thing and that she would be released the next day,” he recalls. “But the next day, we were told that she had been arrested under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act.”

Within days, Nishi’s husband and brother-in-law arrived in Mumbai and pleaded the Dindoshi magistrate court for her release. But the court refused to grant them her custody.

Since Nishi and her husband’s marriage was solemnised by their tribal community, the couple doesn’t have a government-authorised marriage certificate. The court, therefore, couldn’t release Nishi into her husband’s care.

Advocate Suchitra Ramani, who represented the family in the Dindoshi court, says the court directed that her father be summoned.

The father reached the city on April 21 and filed a release application in court.

The court issued her release order on April 30, with the caveat that her custody be given to her father only at her home in Manipur in the presence of state-run institute officials.

Refusing access
In the meantime, Nishi’s condition began to worsen. Her family was not allowed to meet her at the Boisar rehab home or give her clothes. Twenty days later, the authorities buckled and allowed them to pass on some clothes to her.

“I have visited the shelter so many times. I spend whole days in court, hoping to get custody of my daughter. She is pregnant and needs medication. Who will be responsible if anything happens to her?” rued the father. “My daughter is not a sex worker. With the monsoon around the corner, I have to head back home soon for cultivation. If I don’t get back on time, my family will suffer.”

Senior advocate Suresh Chandrashekhar has now filed a review application in the matter in the sessions court. Arguments in the case were heard on May 17. The order is expected on Tuesday.

Fear of being cheated
The court refused to grant Nishi’s father her custody in the city, saying there were chances that he could be “cheated”. It said, “The father seems to be illiterate and is likely to get cheated if she is given to him in Mumbai.”

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