Lucknow. "They would force me to consume alcohol. Then they would stuff my mouth with cloth and tape it. Every day I would have to sleep with three to four men. When I refused, they cut off my fingers with a pair of scissors." Just recalling the torture she underwent, is enough to make15-year-old Neha (name changed) break down. But more than her words, it is the wounds on her body, some oozing pus, that bear testimony to what she underwent.
In the heart of the capital of Uttar Pradesh is a house in Triveni Nagar I. It is just under 10 kilometers from the chief minister's house. Not too far from the Vidhan Sabha or even the UP Police Headquarters. In this house lives a man called Sudhir Gupta, his wife Anita and his daughter Shweta. For Neha, this was a house of horror. She was hired to do domestic chores – sweeping and swabbing the floor, the dishes and the clothes. But what she was not told at the time she was hired was that she would also be expected to double up as a sex worker. She did not know that the house was actually a brothel.
Talking to Gaon Connection, Neha holds out her hands. One finger of her right hand is a stump. One finger of her left hand is broken. "Sudhir Gupta held me feet. Shweta held my hands. And Anita chopped my finger with a pair of scissors. She broke a finger on my other hand," says Neha. This is what they did to her when she refused to entertain clients. Neha's body bears the marks of extremely horrific torture. Some wounds are new, some are old. Some are infected and oozing pus. Her face has been branded with a pair of hot tongs. Other sharp kitchen tools have been used to inflict torture. She bears the bruises all over her body. "After chopping my finger, they shoved me in the boot of a car and took me to an elderly doctor. He dressed my wounds," she recalls.
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Neha was kept in a dark room, locked up. Every day, she was forced to have sex with three to four people.
Four days before Independence Day, Neha got an opportunity to set herself free. On 11 August, she saw the door of her jail open and without a second thought, she just ran out of the house of horror. Somehow she made it to her sister's house and they informed the police. At 9.30 pm on 13 August, she was sent to the Aapki Sakhi Asha Jyoti Counseling Centre.
Neha lived with her family in the jhuggi-jhopri cluster in Triveni Nagar. Her mother died when she was little. Her father and brother are mentally unstable. Neha started working in Sudhir Gupta as a domestic help to earn some money. But she had no idea of what awaited her there.
"They were running a prostitution den in the house. Every day, men would come, they would bring girls. The Gupta family lived off the money they earned from this business. They wouldstart coming around 11 am and this went on till eight or nine at night. This was the daily routine. They told me that they would scar my face so badly that no one would be able to recognize me," says Neha.
For two years, Neha lived in this house of horror. Every old scar and fresh wound bear testimony to what she underwent. "When my brother would come to ask for me, Sudhir Gupta would tell him that I am not there," she says.
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Archana Singh, Administrator of Aapki Sakhi Asha Jyoti Kendra, who is also counseling Neha says, "She has many wounds on her body. Some of which are bleeding, some are infected and oozing pus. The fingers on both her hands have been totally destroyed. She is scarred both physically and mentally."
Archana Singh further says that Neha has not stopped crying since she came here. Neha is still terrified. Her biggest fear was that Subhash Gupta would somehow scar her face so badly that her sister would not be able to recognize her. Archana feels that it will take at least six months of counselling for Neha's mental condition to normalize. "Doctors will take care of her physical wounds, but healing her mentally will take more time," she says.
The case has been registered at the Galla Mandi Chowki of Aliganj Police Station. Chowki in charge Nepal Singh told Gaon Connection, "Sudhir Gupta has been arrested. The girl has told us that she was forced into prostitution. This is a serious crime. Investigations are on. After the age determination test, we will see if the sections under POCSO can be levelled."
Neha says she was kept locked inside a room in the house and would not be given food for three to four days at a stretch. "I don't know how I survived the past two years. They tortured me within an inch of my life. All kinds of men would some there – young, old. One room was kept nicely decorated. It was in this room that the men met the girls. The men who came there would do bad things with me in a very perverse manner. (Bahut gande tarike se mere saath galat kaam karte the). It was very painful. They were so rough, I got wounds," Neha says.
Member of the Child Welfare Committee Sangeeta Sharma says, "Our first priority in such cases is to ensure that the victim gets proper counseling. Once she is in the right frame of mind, we ask her for details about her home and family. It is on the basis of this that we decide where she should stay for her own safety. If the child is sent with the family, we conduct regular follow-ups. If she is sent to a children's home, then we ensure that she is well taken care of."
Renu Mishra of Association for Advocacy and Legal Aid (AALI) sheds light on the legal aspects of such cases. "The minimum sentence for such cases is 20 years or death sentence. The case should be filed under Sections 323, 325, 342, 504, 506, 376, 307 and 370 of the Indian Penal Code."