A father trekked more than 300 miles to save his children from human traffickers in nearby Nepal. And that was the easy part of the rescue.
“When flood ravaged my village in 2013, I moved to Lucknow and worked at a construction site while my wife and the three children stayed in the village,” said Jagram, a shop owner living in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India. “I returned on hearing that my sons had gone missing.”
Jagram, a shop owner, mortgaged his farmland in July before setting off to find his three missing children in Nepal, on a tip from a citizens’ group.
Twenty days later, Jagram found his sons working as slaves at a brick-making factory outside the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, alongside 100 other children. He told the Hindustan Times of the horrific working conditions — children working from 3 am to 5 pm each day, operating without sleep and receiving only two meals a day.
The facility was well-fortified, making escape near-impossible. Jagram secured a job as a laborer to be closer to his sons, eventually finding four other children from his village. They kept quiet about his identity while he waited for the right moment to escape.
When security seemed lax one night, Jagram made off with all seven children, but they didn’t get far before security set off an alarm. They hid for the night under piles of sand in a neighboring paddy field before catching a bus heading to nearby Nepalganj. Little did they know, they were stepping into a trap.
The traffickers caught up to them at the bus station in Nepalganj, where they were taken to a secluded place and beaten mercilessly. Jagram pleaded for his life, pledging to let them take the children back and return to his village.
They bought it. Instead of heading home defeated, Jagram reported the traffickers to local police, who raided the factory and took the owner and an aide into custody. Nepal police turned the children over to authorities in Uttar Pradesh, who sent them home to their families.
Thousands of children in India and Nepal fall victim to traffickers each year, made into domestic servants or sweatshop-like workers in fireworks factories and coal mines. Recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi estimated about 60 million children, roughly 6% of the population, are forced into servitude.
Jagram now runs a shop in his village while his three sons, ages 10 to 15, attend school once more.