It is not uncommon for a newspaper office to receive a call asking for help beyond news columns. It is also not uncommon for the scribe at the receiving end to put the person on to some official contacts that he knows and then forget about it. What is uncommon is for a journalist to actually go out of his way and help out a stranger. That’s exactly what senior journalist Sunil Kaduskar did and thereby saved the life of a beautiful 17 year old, educated girl from Assam, who was trapped into flesh trade in Pune.
The news feature that appeared as the mainline story on page one in Loksatta dated July 10, the newspaper that Kaduskar works for, was a rare piece of journalism. The story goes like this: At 9 pm on July 5, Kaduskar received a phone call at his office from a youngster who says that “A young girl from Assam has been forced into prostitution and she needs to be freed. Will you help her?’’ The caller said that he had been warned not to go to the police but to contact a journalist and the name suggested was that of Kaduskar’s.
Kaduskar decided to meet the two youngsters after his office hours at 10.30 pm. One of them had visited the red light area in Budhwar Peth where he had met this girl. On her hand she had written ‘please help me out’ and that’s what propelled this youngster to seek help. Kaduskar wanted further proof of her genuine intention so he asked them to go back to her, click her picture on the mobile and get a chit from her establishing her identity. After that he would decide whether to pursue the case or not.
The next day, the two youngsters, Amol Paydhan and Praveen Tapkir, both college going students, came back with her photograph and a note which read thus in English:
“xxxxx from Assam; Mara naam xxxxx xxxxx (Intelligent Pune is not disclosing for obvious reasons),
Pita Naam – xxxx xxxxx – written in English. She had been nicknamed as Rina and Poonam.’’ According to Paydhan, she had passed her 11th std and aimed to become a doctor.
Convinced that it was a genuine case, Kaduskar decided to rescue her. He was adviced not to approach the Faraskhana Police Station or the Shukrawar Peth Police Station although Budhwar Peth comes under their jurisdiction as apparently both the outfits had become apathetic to such cases. He was also warned from taking help from social organizations that work for the
sex workers as they too would not respond the way they should. Kaduskar, who has been reporting crime for many years, decided to meet Joint Police Commissioner Rajendra Sonawane. He in turn directed him to Additional Commissioner Anant Shinde who assured him of all help.
Shinde designated Inspector Rajendra Bhamare who was formerly with the social security cell and Shivaji Deokar, the present Inspector of the social security cell to form the team along with women constable to lay the trap.
On July 7, Kaduskar and the two youngsters accompanied the police team and stood 1.5 kms away from the ‘New Building, Budhwar Peth’ – the prominent landmark where several brothels operate in this newly constructed multi-storeyed building and the girl was in one or them. However, the matron of the brothel recognised the two youngsters and shooed them away,saying they can’t meet ‘Rina.’ Thus, the trap had to be aborted.'
The youngsters did not want to give up. So, they convinced another of their friend to pay a visit to `Rina’ while the police laid the trap. They showed him her photograph on the mobile so that he could recognize her. The friend agreed and so on July 9 at 3.30 p m, the exercise to rescue ‘Rina’ was revived. However, the ‘friend’ developed cold feet as he was walking up the stairs and retreated.
Kaduskar appealed to one of the two youngsters to take up his role and head toward the ‘kothi.’ Once he spotted her there, he messaged his friend who in turn just walked past Kaduskar who was standing on the road a little far away and nudged him. That gesture prompted Kaduskar to wave his hand which was to be the green signal for the police party to get cracking.
The police entered the ‘New Building’ which resembles a marketplace. The staircase and corridors are abuzz with men of all ages walking in and out. The cops along with Kaduskar entered the small 8ftx8ft room where25 to 30 girls huddled together waiting for “business.’’ They spotted Rina who was sitting in a corner – fright writ large on her face.
States Kaduskar, “when the police entered the ‘kotha’ the girl knew that they had come to rescue her. She fell at the feet of the constable and clutched them hard. The woman constable pulled Rina away from the inspector’s feet and hugged her. Rina began to uncontrollably tremble as she hugged the lady constable, who also could not hold back her tears.’’ The girl was shivering uncontrollably at the thought of freedom almost becoming a reality.
Rina was taken to the police station. Her story of forced prostitution goes like this: On June 26, Rina came out of her college in Morigaon town in Assam that she lived in and started walking towards her home along with her friend and his friend. Her sister who had had a love marriage and whose ties were severed from the family had just deliivered a baby. Rina was desperate tov visit her. On way, her friend’s friend told her that her sister is in town and he can take her to see her baby. The next thing she knew, she was at the Pune Railway Station. She was made unconscious and brought by train from Assam to Pune. From the rickshaw she was directly taken to ‘New Building’ Budhwar Peth, where she was sold to the Brothel Keeper Sapna Tamang for Rs.20,000. Her mobile and Rs.5,000 which she had on her was also taken away.
Police also took Tamang to the police station and filed a case against her. Rina was shifted to a Rescue Foundation Home in Fatimanagar. The police from Morigaon have arrived in Pune. In the meanwhile, her parents had filed a missing complaint there of Rina.
For a journalist, this story is more than just a precious byline. It is the lifeline and glimmer of hope for a society that has otherwise gone corrupt in many ways. Pro-active journalism has become the need of the hour; Kaduskar took an invaluable step to achieve that. Kudos to him.
Kudos to the two youngsters too who were courageous enough to take up her cause.