Victims of Aggression
By Simran Sahoo
A young innoc e nt – looking girl opened the door and shyly walked in, interrupting my conversation with Mrs. Rini Mohanty, one of the activists working for Basundhara Orphanage. As she sat beside me, I was told that the young girl was a victim of child labour. I was expecting the usual story of her being beaten up at the employee’s place and not being kept in humane conditions. Intimidated by a stranger’s presence, she was hardly able to formulate a word and I had to coax her to talk to me, to begin with. After taking several deep breaths to calm herself, she finally unravelled her story as I sat there helpless, unable to do anything to bring back the childhood of this teen-mother sitting in front of me. In a timid tone she told me about the poor health of both of her parents and she being the eldest of all the three sisters, had to take up the responsibility of taking care of her entire family at the young age of thirteen. Little was she aware of what was in store for her in the future. Her employer did not beat her or kept her hungry. Nor did he delay in paying her wages. But the vile old man raped the thirteen year old repeatedly when his wife left home for work and his son was sleeping. What was worse is that, this ‘sick in the head’ paedophile carried out his morbid act, with this pristine and innocent girl who didn’t even know the meaning of words like rape and molestation and referred to them as ‘kharap byabhaar’. She somehow managed to send the message to her father who immediately took her back to her village but it was not the end to her agony as yet.
Soon, it was discovered that she had conceived and the fact that she was unmarried, her pregnancy was deemed as a dent to the honour of the village, the same village that had conveniently ignored the fact that she was absolutely not responsible for it but was instead the victim of a ghastly crime. We are a society where a girl is evaluated by the status of her hymen even to this date, urban and village settings alike. She moved to Basundhara at the age of thirteen, left there by her father, where she gave birth to her child, who is now about a year old and stays there with her . While justice did prevail with her rapist being put behind bars and made to pay for the maintenance of the child, no amount of money can compensate for the lost innocence, childhood and honour. The whole country rejoiced when Nirbhaya finally got her justice after such a long wait. What form of justice is due to this young Nirbhaya at Basundhara then?
This young girl, along with many like her who have faced hardships in their past, are living here and are being provided with more than just three square meals a day. They are accepted and welcomed into this huge family. They are taken care of and provided with education and vocational trainings according to their respective interests. “Our kids have become physiotherapists, engineers, nurses, company executives and many more,” says Mrs. Rini, proudly. “As activists, we ask ourselves, what is more important; hunger or education? And in a state like Odisha, where many are below the poverty line, this is exactly what is happening. Where the father is a drunkard with no food in the house, the mother would obviously want the child to go out and get money so that they can at least afford a meal. It is the story of hunger and hence, it is impossible to eradicate child labour altogether,” she shares.
Many children are picked up from railway stations, hotels, shops and also some who are sent to do household chores. If their families can be traced, then they are sent back. Otherwise, they are put under the care of orphanages. This is where institutions like Basundhara come in, where they keep the children; provide them with quality education while keeping them constantly in touch with their families- if the family has been traced but they are incapable of taking care of the children due to financial reasons, because they consider it to be extremely vital. All this becomes possible due to government funding and donations. With their motto being “Basundhara never sends away anyone” Saila Behera madam, a formidable lady in a white saree with a regal air to herself, runs the place to the best of her ability providing the children with all that she can with the available resources. Coffee Bytes urges its readers to come forward and spread the awareness against child labour and child abuse. Let us stand up for our children, who are the future of our society.