Over seven years now, Aman has been to five different cities in India and worked in farmlands, a dhaba, tent house and even picked up empty bottles from trains. For a year during this time, he also stayed in three shelters in Delhi.
The 16-year-old had lost all hope of reuniting with his family and never told anyone that he is from Bangladesh, fearing arrest. Last month, child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi visited his shelter home, where Aman revealed he was trafficked to India seven years ago.
Aman was rescued along with 15 other children from the Old Delhi railway station on July 27 by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO run by Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
The children were kept at Mukti Ashram, a shelter home in North Delhi’s Burari. Formalities of Aman’s repatriation are almost complete, and he hopes to reunite with his parents soon.
Satyarthi got in touch with the Bangladesh High Commission, after which Aman’s family was traced. A telephonic talk with the boy was facilitated. Aman is likely to return next week.
Satyarthi, 62, said the happy twist to the tale happened after an incident last month. “I visit the ashram on weekends. Sometime in August, when I went there, I got to know two boys had escaped from the ashram, but were brought back,” he recalls. “While I was interacting with one of the boys, Aman was noticing me. I told him that if he wants to leave the home, I can make arrangements. He said he still won’t be able to meet his parents.”
Satyarthi checked Aman’s records, which showed him as a resident of Guwahati. The activist told the boy he could send him back to the Assam capital. “He was a drug addict; so I thought he didn’t want to face his parents,” Satyarthi says. “But as I started talking to him, he admitted he was from Bangladesh, but was scared to tell anyone.”
But Aman was still not sure if he will ever be able to see his parents, as he doesn’t have any document to show. “Wherever I stayed or worked, I gave different name and address and I was scared of arrest. Only few close friends knew that I am a Bangladeshi. I miss my mother and always wanted to meet her,” says Aman. “But I had no hope as wherever I went, I was tortured and slaved.”
A native of Khagrachari district in southeastern Bangladesh, Aman was first brought to Dhaka by a trafficker.
“I was forced to work at a tea stall, but was not paid anything. After few months, I was taken to Silchar in Assam. We crossed the border at night,” he recalls. “There I worked at a dhaba for a year and was paid Rs 100 everyday. After that, one person took me to Kolkata and I cleaned dishes for few months at a hotel. Then, around five years ago, the same man brought me to Delhi. Since then, I am here.”
In Delhi, Aman worked at a tent house where he would clean dishes at marriage parties, sometimes working 24 hours at stretch. The contractor sent him to Meerut to work in the fields. “My job was to wake up at 4 am and wash buffalo,” he says. “Then, for some time, he was in Haridwar, where I made rotis at a hotel.”
In between, he got addicted to drug and was sent to a de-addiction centre, where he stayed for six months. He used to sleep at the Hanuman temple near Old Delhi railway station. “My contractor used to send us children in trucks to work at marriage parties.”
Satyarthi notices Aman was thrilled after speaking to his mother. “This is our Eid’s gift to him,” he adds.
(The boy’s name has been changed to protect his identity)