Inter-State Trafficking of Children from
North East on the Pretext of Education
Vigyan Bhawan Annexe (Hall-A)
Organised by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
Session – I
Oral statement of Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights on the “North-East Situation”
Prof. Shanta Sinha, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Mr Luv Verma, Secretary of the NCPCR, Mr B K Sahu, Registrar of the NCPCR and other distinguished participants.
I would like to thank the NCPCR for inviting me to make a presentation on the “North East Situation” in this High Level Meeting with respect to the Supreme Court directions dated 1.09.2010 in the matter of Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu Vs. UOI and Ors concerning large scale transportation of children from one state to another.
As we all know, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (vide its Order dated 31.03.2010 in the said matter) had asked the NCPCR to inquire into large scale transportation of children from one State to another, including Manipur and Assam to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and to file a report in the matter. The NCPCR inquired into the matter and submitted a report to the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 15.07.2010.
After having considered the report of the NCPCR, the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its Order dated 1.09.2010 has further issued the following directions:
“(i) The Deputy Commissioner of N.C. Hills should ensure that the schools, hostels and children home complex presently occupied by the armed/ security forces are vacated within a month’s time and it should be ensured that the school buildings and hostels are not allowed to be occupied by the armed or security forces in future for whatsoever purpose.
(ii) The Ministry of HRD Government of India is directed to submit a list of schools and hostels (district- wise), collected from the State Governments/ Union Territories Administrations which are currently occupied by the armed/ security forces in the North Eastern States duly indicating the date from which or duration for which such schools and hostels have been occupied by the security forces.
(iii) The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is directed to ensure that the para military forces vacate the school and hostel buildings occupied by them and submit an Action taken report to this Court as well as NCPCR within two months from today. The Ministry shall file a proper affidavit in this matter on the next date of hearing of this writ petition.
(iv)The Ministry of DONER is directed to hold special meetings with North Eastern States especially Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland to assess their requirement in terms of educational infrastructure such as construction of school building, hostels and children homes for support by the Ministry.
(v) The State of Manipur and Assam are directed to ensure that no child below the age of 12 years or those at primary school level are sent outside for pursuing education to other states until further orders.
(vi) The NCPCR shall continue to be engaged with the ‘source’ as well as ‘destination’ States for addressing the protection issues concerning children taken from one State to another. It is directed to hold meetings and apprise the situation/ progress in this matter to this court.
(vii) The Union of India and all the State Governments are directed to render necessary assistance to NCPCR.”
The compliance with these directions is the subject matter of this High Level Meeting as the Honourable Supreme Court will hear the matter for further directions on 15.11.2010. Therefore, I shall restrict myself to the directions issued on 01.09.2010 and further raise some of the issues that can be considered by the NCPCR while submitting its compliance report to the Hon’ble Supreme Court for further directions on 15.11.2010.
The report of the NCPCR to the Supreme Court examining the factual situation of each case of trafficking of children from the North East to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu is an excellent one. ACHR too intervened with the NCPCR in a few cases. There are a number of trends that one could find from the report of the NCPCR and complaints submitted by the NGOs.
I. Trends of trafficking and traffickersFirst, no data on trafficking of children in India
Trafficking has been a problem for many years in India. There are a number of root causes including conflicts, extreme poverty and virtual non-existence of the State to provide the opportunities for the right to education, health, food and adequate housing.
Yet, there are no reliable data.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) constituted a Committee on Missing Children on 12 February 2007 to study the issue of missing children in depth and submitted a report. The NHRC estimates that over 44,000 children go missing every year in India. Of these 11,000 children are never traced. The NHRC figures are a fraction of the actual cases. On 29 January 2010, the Supreme Court stated that India was becoming a hub of child prostitution and suggested setting up of a special investigating agency to tackle the problem.
Children are reported missing mostly from the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa , but the transportation/trafficking of children from the North Eastern states in particular from Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Meghalaya is alarming. Most state governments do not have dedicated squad or unit for handling cases of missing children. In Assam, from 2001 to 2005, a total of 3,673 children were reported missing of which only 1,386 were traced. The trafficking of children from the North East has also global dimension as many North East girls have been rescued from Malaysia. In October 2008 the Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur brought back five North East girls who managed to escape from the captivity of human traffickers.
Second, involvement of the faith based organizations in trafficking from conflict prone areas
While trafficking is usually viewed in the context of organized criminal gangs/groups, there is no doubt that a number of faith based organizations are involved in trafficking in conflict situations. This is underlined by the fact that all the cases referred by the NCPCR in its report relate to faith based organizations:
- 52 children belonging to Tousem Sub-division of Tamenglong District, Manipur and 24 children belonging to N.C. Hills of Assam, rescued from Kanyakumari District in January 2010;
- 22 Manipuri children including 11 girls rescued from Chennai on 21.01.2010;
- 27 Manipuri children rescued from Nagapattinam District in Tamil Nadu
- Children living in the Gilgal Children Home at Keela Pappakudi and in the Reach Hostel at Ambasamudram Taluka in Tiruneveli District, Tamil Nadu
- 18 girl children transported from Tousem sub-division of Manipur (10) and NC Hills (8) to Bangalore via Chennai by Mr. Nambuing Paul Newme
- 24 children from Manipur living at Oasis Home, Anna Nagar (West) Kumber Colony, Chennai:
A number of interventions made by the Asian Centre for Human Rights including with the NCPCR also relate to the faith-based organizations as highlighted below:
Case 1: Trafficking of 29 tribal children, including 11 girls, from Nagaland to Andhra Pradesh (NCPCR Case No. F.No.NL26011/7740/09/Com/2012)
On 2 March 2009, 29 tribal children, including 11 girls, from Nagaland were trafficked to Andhra Pradesh by Dr. Henry Rongmei, Director of Truth Light Healing Ministry (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland) and his associates Mrs Sarah Tangkul and Mr. Ringcham. The parents were poor and unable to provide education to their children. They were told that the children would be given free education up to Class X in a good school under good care and guidance at the EARE Ministry Harvest India (Gypsy Orphan Children Home) at Srina VasanNagar, Miryalaguda in Andhra Pradesh. The parents agreed and decided to send their children to Andhra Pradesh. They paid Rs. 3,21,610 to meet the journey and other expenses.
After two months the parents learned that their children were being maltreated, denied education and proper food and nutrition and the girls were being molested. The children were not given education but rather were put to work and other abuses.
On 10 June 2009, the parents of the trafficked children lodged a complaint with the Jaluki Police Station, Nagaland against Dr. Henry Rongmei and Mrs Sarah Thangkhul. The parents also submitted a petition to the Deputy Commissioner, Peren. The children were rescued with the help of the state government of Nagaland and brought home. The children had to be hospitalised as a result of their treatment.
When the police failed to act against Dr. Henry Rongmei and Mrs Sarah Thangkhul, the parents of the trafficked children approached the ACHR for assistance.
On 3 August 2009, the ACHR filed a complaint with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) with regard to the trafficking of these 29 tribal children. In its complaint, the ACHR requested that the Commission direct the state government of Nagaland to immediately arrest Dr. Henry Rongmei and Ms Sarah Thangkhul, and take legal action against them; direct both the state governments of Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh to order a judicial inquiry into the EARE Ministry Harvest India (Gypsy Orphan Children Home) in Andhra Pradesh and its alleged affiliate the Truth Light Healing Ministry; and direct the Nodal Cell on Human Trafficking under the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Nodal Officer of Nagaland on Human Trafficking to jointly take appropriate measures to prevent human trafficking from Nagaland and submit their action taken report to the NCPCR.
On 7 May 2010, the NCPCR informed the ACHR that the matter was being examined by the Secretary, Department of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Principal Secretary, Department of Women and Child Welfare, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Home Commissioner, Govt. of Nagaland and Secretary-cum-Commissioner, Department of Social Welfare, Govt. of Nagaland.
In its letter dated 25 May 2010, the NCPCR provided to the ACHR the report of inquiry conducted by the Principal Secretary, Department of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, progress report of investigation into Jaluki Police Station Case/No. 17/09 under Sections 418/420/365/363A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) by Superintendent of Police, Peren, Nagaland and report of the Principal Secretary, Women Development, Child Welfare Department and Disabled Welfare Department, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh.
As per the report of the Principal Secretary, Women Development, Child Welfare Department and Disabled Welfare Departement, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, a criminal case was registered at Miryalguda Rural Police Station (Cr.No. 109/2009) under section 417, 342, 374 of the IPC. Six persons were identified as accused namely Dr. Henry, son of Gaibuan (A-1); Mrs. Sarah, wife of Dr. Henry (A-2); Riamel Ashiyana alias Aswin, wife of Heera Ram Singh (A-3); Heera Ram Singh (A-4); Shudheer Kumar Bishap (A-5), President of EARE Ministry Harvest India (Gpysy Orphan Children Home), Padisona Peta, Ithanagar, Tenali of Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh; and Chellapally Shalin Raju (A-6). On 31 May 2009, the rescued children were produced before the Court of Judicial First Class Magistrate, Miryalguda. However, an offence against Chellapally Shalin Raju (A-6) was not made out and omitted him as accused.
On 3 June 2009, Riamel Ashiyana (A-3) and Heera Ram Singh (A-4) were arrested and remanded to judicial custody. On 3 July 2009, Sudheer Kumar Bishap (A-5), President of EARE, surrendered before court. However, the court released all the three (A-3, A-4, and A-5) on bail. The two others namely Dr. Henry (A-1) and Mrs. Sarah (A-2) remained at large. The Nagaland Police have not arrested anybody till date.
The NCPCR informed ACHR that it was considering closing down the complaint in the light of the action taken.Case 2: Trafficking of Bru Children
During 2002-2003, as many as 49 Bru (also called Reang) tribal children including 35 from the Bru relief camps in Tripura and 14 from Hailakandi in Assam were allegedly taken away by one Biradamani Reang after making their guardians sign false affidavits allowing their children to be sent to Anand Marg homes. In those affidavits, some children, who had parents, were declared to be orphans.
A few Bru children returned to their homes in Hailakandi and relief camps in North Tripura in 2007 and complained that they were working as domestic workers and were not given any education. Based on the complaint filed by the parents/guardians of the missing children with the Hailakandi police station and at Kanchanpur police station in North Tripura district in November 2007, the police started investigating. The children were admitted to different hostels of Anand Marg in Nagaland, Shillong in Meghalaya, Assam, Kolkata in West Bengal and Delhi. The Anand Marg authorities denied any wrongdoing and stated that the children were looked after well but refused to hand over the children to the parents. A case was under various sections of the Indian Penal Code in Hailakandi, Assam. In June 2008, a police team from Assam was sent to Purulia in West Bengal, which returned 44 children to Hilakandi while the parents of other three others decided to keep them in Anand Marg homes. 
It is not only the Bru IDPs or IDPs from Karbi Anglong, NC Hills of Assam or Manipur but a large number of victims of trafficking also came from the Bodoland areas which had witnessed ethnic conflicts and massive displacement since 1990s.
Conflict and misery of the people also provide opportunities to the faith based organizations to be active, especially in areas of conflicts. This cuts across all regions. While many faith based organizations do excellent work to provide humanitarian assistance – there is also no doubt that a few resort to criminality.
Third, no full compliance with the Supreme Court order dated 1.09.2010
There is no doubt that conflicts, both inter-ethnic and insurgency, caused either destruction or occupation of the schools by the security forces in contravention of the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Further, poverty remains extreme – the opportunities for education or even sending children to school in safe environment does not exist. Parents are often approached by unscrupulous elements and induced to send their children outside the States for education without realizing the consequences of trafficking. The cases cited by the NCPCR in its report to the Supreme Court and the ACHR in its complaint to the NCPCR show that children as young as 5 years are made ardous train journey from the North East to Southern India.
The Supreme Court has therefore directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) “to ensure that the para military forces vacate the school and hostel buildings occupied by them and submit an Action taken report to this Court as well as NCPCR within two months”.
It is important to bear in mind that it is not only the Central security forces under the Ministry of Home Affairs but also State security forces (Police, Armed Police, Commandos, State Rifles, Indian Reserve Battalions) which have been occupying schools across North East.
As per as information available with the Asian Centre for Human Rights, Assam has not complied with the directions of the Supreme Court to ensure that the security forces vacate the schools. As of today i.e. 8 November 2010, at least the following two schools in Assam are being occupied by the security forces under Udalgiri district:
1. Routa Bagan Lower Primary School in Udalguri district occupied by Indian Reserve Battallion (Mizo); and
2. Khwirasal Lower Primary School, Bhakatpara under Udalgiri district occupied by the Assam Rifles
The ACHR is currently collecting further information from the North Eastern States about the lack of compliance by the MHA and the State governments.II. ACHR’s recommendations
While the orders of the Supreme Court of India are welcome, it must be borne in mind that there are numerous judgements/orders which are not strictly followed by the governments.
ACHR makes the following recommendations for consideration by the NCPCR as it submits compliance report to the Surpeme Court for the hearing on 15.11.2010:
- The NCPCR seek time from the Honourable Court and establish mechanisms to independently verify the reports submitted by the concerned Ministries about the security forces vacating of the schools, hostels and children home complex as directed by the Supreme Court of India;
- Considering that State security forces (Police, Armed Police, Commandos, State Rifles, Indian Reserve Battalions) have been occupying schools across North East, the report of the Ministry of Human Resources Development must be reviewed carefully. If the State governments have not provided adequate information to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, the District Collectors should be directed to submit the report about the security forces vacating the schools and other educational institutions. The fact that a number of schools are under the occupation of the State securiy forces should be brought to the notice of the Honourable Court by the NCPCR while reporting about the compliance with the directions of 01.09.2010;
- The NCPCR must neither close the report submitted to the Supreme Court or complaints filed by NGOs like ACHR. It should establish a cell to follow up the prosecution of those responsible for trafficking as referred to in the report to the Supreme Court of India or complaints filed by NGOs like ACHR. Unless the accused are prosecuted, the order that “the State of Manipur and Assam are directed to ensure that no child below the age of 12 years or those at primary school level are sent outside for pursuing education to other states until further orders” without effective measures may not be sufficient;
- The report of the NCPCR to the Supreme Court as well as the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court have recognized the vulnerability of the children in conflict situations. In this regard, the NCPCR must take the following measures.
First, considering that each conflict and each IDP camp is a potential source of conflict, it must take preventive measures, among others, by sending missions to the IDP camps to ensure that the right to education, the right to food, the right to health, the right to adequate housing, are provided to the displaced children; directing the relevant officials to be vigilant against trafficking and to raise awareness about trafficking of children amongst the IDPs;
Second, there are number of IDP camps in the North East India especially in Assam which are not covered in the report to the Hon’ble Supreme Court. To address trafficking from these camps, the NCPCR should immediately appoint focal point/staff in all the IDP camps to collect information about the trafficking of children, and take appropriate measures either to investigate on its own and take necessary measures or direct the State to investigate, take appropriate measures and keep the NCPCR informed;
- Implementation of all these activities including the directions of the Supreme Court requires financial resources. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has also entrusted the responsibility on the implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act to the NCPCR. At the same time, the NCPCR suffers from serious resource crunch – both human and financial. While the recommendation for establishment of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is welcomed, the NCPCR needs to augment its own capacities. The NCPCR should submit “financial assessment” to the government of India to implement the tasks assigned by the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court has already directed “the Union of India and all the State Governments to render necessary assistance to NCPCR.” If NCPCR does augment its capacities, it can ensure better enjoyment of the rights of the child in the country.
 . The report of the NHRC Committee on Missing Children is available at http://nhrc.nic.in/dispArchive.asp?fno=1429
 . 44,476 children go missing every year, The Tribune, Chandigarh, 25 January 2007
 . India becoming a hub of child prostitution: SC, The Indian Express, New Delhi 30 January 2010
 . LOST AND NOT FOUND IN INDIA - 45,000 children go missing every year, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 4 January 2007
 . Assam police say their hands tied, NGOs make a difference, The Indian Express, New Delhi, 17 February 2007
 . Repatriation of NE girls, The Nagalad Post, 9 October 2008
 . Anand Marg clarifies report on missing Reang children, The Sentinel, Guwahati, Assam, 2 June 2008
 . Hunt on for missing Reang students, The Shillong Times, Meghalaya, 10 November 2007
 . Anand Marg denies allegation slur, The Sentinel, Guwahati, Assam, 4 June 2008