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'State should own up for traumatising me'

Says 19-year-old pregnant woman, who was recently released from a shelter in Boisar, three months after she was rescued from a massage parlour; family has filed a writ petition in HC, seeking the govt’s response on her ‘illegal detainment’

“I am scared to work in Mumbai again, but I have no other option.” Nishi (name changed) is still trying to come to terms with the losses — financial and emotional — she suffered at the hands of the system that ‘rescued’ her.

The woman and her family have filed a writ petition in court against her ‘illegal detainment’
The woman and her family have filed a writ petition in court against her ‘illegal detainment’

The 19-year-old Manipuri woman, who is now in the fifth month of her pregnancy, was on June 18 released from a women’s shelter in Boisar, nearly three months after she was rescued from a massage parlour in Borivli that allegedly indulged in flesh trade. Nishi’s family has claimed that she is no sex worker and that she was illegally detained.

mid-day had on May 21 highlighted the woman’s plight. Nishi arrived in Mumbai three months ago and was hired by a massage parlour — Aura Thai Spa — in Borivli West. Just three days after joining as a masseuse, the police raided the parlour on March 29 for allegedly indulging in flesh trade and rescued many women, including the 19-year-old. The women were produced in court, sent first to a rehabilitation centre in Kandivli and then to another in Boisar. The court agreed to release Nishi last month, but only in the care of her father and too in their village, in the presence of state-run welfare institute officials.

Hellish stay
Recalling that fateful day of the police raid, Nishi told mid-day, “It was my third day at the spa. I was having lunch when policemen in civil clothes arrived. I was distraught [when I was taken away], but they did not tell me anything.”

At the women’s shelter, Nav Jivan Mahila Vastigruh in Boisar, she allegedly wasn’t given a nutritious diet to help with her pregnancy. “I was given used clothes to wear. I stayed in a room were 12 women were already lodged. I was, however, given a bed, keeping in mind my condition. The whole place stank and we were asked to clean it ourselves.”

To make up for the lack of adequate food, Nishi took to drinking tea, which she had earlier abstained from. “I was not allowed to meet my family members. Every Friday, we got chance to speak to our family members. But, I was not allowed to talk to my family in my native tongue and was forced to speak in English, instead,” she said.

Each day at the “hell” of a shelter, Nishi grasped at straws of her imminent release. “Three months passed by this way,” she rued.

Nishi’s 65-year-old father, a farmer who had to come to Mumbai from a remote village in Manipur to seek her release, said the legal hurdles took a toll on the family financial condition. “We are very poor. Her mother has been paralysed and bedridden for the past three years. To come to Mumbai, I had to sell my buffaloes and mortgage my land.”

Nishi said she doesn’t even have enough money to go back home. “I will work for a month or two here, and then decide the next course of action. I am extremely scared to work again in Mumbai.

Advocates Suresh Chandra-shekhar and Siddharth Chandrashekhar helped the family in their fight. Suresh filed a revision application in then Dindoshi sessions court, asking that Nishi be released in her father’s care in Mumbai itself. They took up the plea, and issued an order for release on June 16. A copy of the order was sent out the next day, and Nishi was accordingly, let out on June 18.

Siddharth said the family is seeking compensation for the trauma it suffered and has filed a writ petition, seeking the state’s response, in the HC. “There should be guidelines in such [flesh trade] cases. Every one has the right to a legal representative, which Nishi did not get in the magistrate court (where all women who were rescued were produced). This is a prime example of the misuse of the laws enacted to protect women to prosecute them.”

The writ petition will be taken up by the HC on July 11.

Calling her protracted stay at the shelter an “illegal detainment”, Suresh said the case highlighted complete system failure. “The police should send women to shelters only after their investigations. There is nothing that can adequately compensate Nishi for the loss of three months in her state and the stress she suffered. It has been a long and arduous journey. Justice has prevailed, albeit belatedly. However, there are so many victims of this cruel and horrifying treatment at the hands of the police.” He said Nishi underwent a medical examination post-release. “It took us two days to calm her down. She is better now.”

Pinning accountability
Holding the state government, and the owner and manager of the massager parlour responsible for her ordeal, she said no representative from them reached out to her. The owner had got an anticipatory bail in the case. “I cannot get back the three months I lost. But I want compensation from the state, and it should be held accountable for my trauma.”

Everyone is picked up

— Ashok Dudhe, DCP and official spokesperson of Mumbai Police
As per the law, whenever there are such raids, everyone is picked up. Customers, owners and managers are arrested, while the women are rescued and sent to shelters. The court decides the next course of action.

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