Twenty girls have been rescued from an circus in Gorakhpur, India.
According to a press release by the Nepal Child Welfare Foundation (NCWF), four of their staff members along with Country Director Esther Benjamins Trust-Nepal, Philip Holmes, were involved in the rescue mission that is now nearing conclusion.
According to the NCWF, the team, which was accompanied by 12 parents from Makwanpur district, have been in Gorakhpur where the New Raj Kamal Circus was playing in nearby Hata. The action followed repeated attempts by the parents to retrieve their children before approaching the NCWF for assistance.
Intelligence indicated that the children at the circus were being subjected to serious abuse and the aim was to rescue all of the child performers back to Nepal. In Gorakhpur, they received close support from Delhi-based NGO Pravasi Nepali Mitra Manch, and from the local offices of ChildLine India and Purvanchal Gramin Seva Samiti (PGSS).
The local police in Hata were highly uncooperative and clearly hand in glove with the circus that was just a few hundred metres from the police station, the foundation said. The police were unwilling to investigate the serious allegations of sexual and other abuse or to accept a First Information Report ( FIR). Only after intense pressure was applied from ChildLine and higher authorities, they allowed the release of 12 girls to their parents, the foundation said.
The remaining 8 children were returned to the Nepal police in Bhairahawa on Sunday evening. Their swift transfer prevented any local investigation of what had happened at the circus and protected the circus owner, Lakchan Chaudary, who the girls allege has been guilty of sexual abuse, including rape. In spite of this attempt at a cover up, the effort continues in Gorakhpur and the team intends to take legal action against Chaudary and the senior circus management. Meanwhile, the 20 girls will enter the EBT-N/NCWF rehabilitation programme in Nepal.
The statement quoted Philip Holmes, Country Director EBT-N, as saying, "We had known in advance that this would be a very difficult operation but I was shocked to see with my own eyes what a strong network this tiny circus had established for its protection. Circus staff members were even being given lifts on the back of police motor bikes while our access to the police was being restricted to no more than one team member at a time."
He further said, "The local police in Hata should be ashamed of themselves for their indifference to the plight of the children. What kind of men, who purport to uphold the law, can stand aside while children are allegedly being sexually abused and protect the alleged perpetrator? I am very grateful to the office of ChildLine India and PGSS without whose support and commitment our mission would certainly have failed. Their contribution was in marked contrast to that of the police."
Khet Raj Mainali, Ganesh Shrestha, Bhim Lama and Kumar Giri are the staff members of NCFW involved in the operation. nepalnews.com ia Jan 15 07