marc: How did you take the initiative of doing the sting operation in Goa?
tehelka: We had information from some of our sources that Goa had overtaken Thailand and Sri Lanka in the issue. We decided to investigate the story because that we thought that paedophilia is a horrible crime - it is committed against minor children. In Goa they come from very poor families. Europeans come preying on the bodies of poor girls and boys and I think it was necessary to rip the lid off this horrid crime.
laughingbuddha: What's your Goa Expose all about?
tehelka: The Goa Expose, as a lot of people must have watched last night, is about the sinister manner in which parents, lawmakers, politicians, get together to facilitate child molesters. If it was possible for Tehelka to uncover this crime in five months, there is no reason why the Goa government cannot take steps to put an end to its own children being sexually abused.
This is a story about children in the age of 8-13 being abused by those aged 50 and above. The most shocking thing that comes out of this sting operation which Tehelka did that the lawmakers like police, special branch, etc. and bureaucrats working in the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare are not even sticking to basic rules to protect children, and mind you, there is an act called Goa Children's Act, 2003 that lays down specific guidelines - all of which are being violated.
mike: How did you find out about Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's connivance with the abusers?
tehelka: We had known that the UK government, on the request of Goa Government, had agreed to do project to investigate the extent of paedophilia in Goa. The request was made by the current Chief Minister in 2001. Based upon this, UK Government commissioned the top-notch police investigator Ric Wood to map the extent of tourism-related paedophilia in Goa.
Over a two-week period, Wood compiled 37 cases showing the extent of paedophilia and nearly half of them relate to British men. The shocking thing about this expose is the fact that Manohar Parrikar has been sitting on this report for the last three years. It seems he is more concerned about the tourism revenues than child molestation. Tehelka has made a charter of demands and one of these demands is that Manohar Parrikar makes the report public immediately.
laughingbuddha: How is different from tons of news reports of fathers raping daughters that one keeps reading?
tehelka: It's different in many ways, without undermining the crime that a father does against his own child. Our sting operation actually takes a close look at all the loopholes that facilitate this horrible crime. If the lawmakers pay attention, bureaucrats and the politicians, as we hope it should in any civilized country, then perhaps we will be saving a lot of children from sexual abuse. And this includes abuse perpetuated by parents.
sonam: Did you interact with any of the abusers? What did they say?
tehelka: We were able to track a few paedophiles. When I say track, I mean in many ways. Most paedophiles are very careful about how they operate. Tehelka managed to unearth documents that leave a huge paper trail and even a cursory look at these documents will shock you into how ignorant the police is.
Tehelka managed to meet a German paedophile, whose name is Jorg Harry Wringelmann. We posed as filmmakers who were working on a documentary on mixed marriages and managed to talk to him, who, at that point, had two young girls - both aged around 15-16. One he claimed was his adopted daughter and the other his wife. Wringelmann puts his own age as 50. He showed us a certificate, which he claimed was his marriage registration, but it was only a Rs. 20 affidavit obtained from a notary and not a certificate that has been registered in court, as required. He also showed us an adoption deed, but again, it was forged.
According to the guidelines of the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare, a single foreigner cannot adopt a child to begin with. Look at some of the other lies - his adopted daughter told Tehelka that her own father had given her away to Wringelmann when she was a child and that she does not remember her family now. But the adoption deed that he showed us carried the thumb imprint of a widow called Laksmi Idger based only on these forged documents.
The police could have arrested Wringelmann for the illegal detention of a minor girl under the provision of Goa Children's Act 2003. Apart from this detailed case study, Tehelka managed to shoot on a spy camera, a coupled named Lucy and James D'Mello. Lucy admits on camera that she had been harbouring 11-year-old Sanju.
Sanju was being abused by another paedophile called Bernard, who was a French. Bernard used to come during the tourist season every year and used to pay Lucy and James Rs. 5,000-10,000 for harbouring Sanju. She also admitted on camera that Bernard had bought her a television and he used to take her and her husband out for expensive dinners. Lucy, who had a son of her own as young as Sanju, told Tehelka that for her 'money was honey'.
james: How can parents let their children get into this trap?
tehelka: That's a very sensitive and interesting question. It comes out of acute poverty. We met boys who had been abused whose parents slept on the streets of Goa. They were that poor.
Which is why the crimes committed by the lawmakers is even more shocking because instead of helping poor families, they seem to be on the side of the perpetrators.
Tehelka posed as event managers and actually had meetings with two shack owners in Goa. One of them had been shot on the spy cam saying he was willing to provide us boys for only Rs. 500 per day.
Paedophilia is a crime that has to be tackled politically, legally and socially. Apart from a few NGOs, the local Goa community is not taking this up as an issue because a lot of the children who end up as victims, come from the coastal areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The Tehelka expose will hopefully shake the bureaucrats, police and politicians, out of their slumber.
uppal: Why do you think that abusers are taking to Goa?
tehelka: The answer to that is very simple. The paedophilia bus has moved from Thailand to Sri Lanka to India because the government is choosing to look the other way. The same shack owner, for example, told us again on spy camera that he would take care of the cops by bribing them. Paedophiles are now operating in Goa, comfortable in the knowledge that they can circumvent Indian laws.
The problem is so serious that a couple of years ago, Robin Cook, who was then the foreign secretary of UK, said on records that Goa had become the biggest destination for paedophiles.
laughingbuddha: Why only Goa?
tehelka: Paedophiles are known to visit popular tourist destinations and Tehelka expose` also deals with the fact that the paedophiles then take their victims from Goa to other popular destinations or cities like Jaipur and Mumbai.
mona: Why wasn't any action taken over Ric Wood's report in 2001?
tehelka: I will reiterate the fact that the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has been sitting on this report for three years because the money from tourism is more important for him.
jackal: Did you interact with the Chief Minister directly?
tehelka: No. He didn't give us an appointment. But its less than 24 hours since the Tehelka - Aaj Tak expose, and we believe that two people have already been picked up for questioning.
We are going to reiterate our demands that Manohar Parrikar makes the report public. In fact, we got a confirmation of the Ric Wood report from Jeff Wilson, First Secretary, Press and Public Affairs, in the UK High Commission in New Delhi. And he told us that ultimately it is for the authorities in India to tackle criminal problems in India.
He confirmed that the report had been submitted to the Chief Minister of Goa and said that UK remained prepared to engage in future cooperation on action against paedophiles. It is very clear from this that the Indian authorities are responsible for sidelining an alarming, perverse and horrifying crime.
raj: What steps do you think government should take to counter the menace?
tehelka: The steps are very simple. The guidelines are already there. If only the police and the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare had been doing their basic jobs, Goa would not have become a paradise for paedophiles.
Let me give you another example here, Goa is now full of children's homes. Under existing guidelines, these homes have to be registered with the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare, but the director heading this was not able to even tell us how many such homes are actually in Goa. Worse, Tehelka found out that were foreigners accessing children from these shelter homes by paying Rs. 1000-2002. The entire administration seems to be conspiring to help the perpetrators and not the innocent victims.
What is even more shocking is the fact the senior police officers in Goa told us that there was little wrong in young boys sleeping naked with old men. For them, a crime happens only when there is sexual penetration. If this is the attitude of men in uniform, there is little wonder that Goa has become the most popular destination for paedophiles.
decosta: What makes Tehelka tick?
tehelka: LOL. We are doing our job and we are very clear about our mandate which is public interest journalism. Our motto - "rise in being free, fair and fearless".
Thank you so much for joining us today! Will you like to leave a message for those who joined us today?
I will like to thank everybody who participated. I would also like to point out the fact that the tone and tenor of the questions was extremely sensitive. This attitude, if adopted, by people in power, will go a long way in dealing with the sordid crime, which we have just chatted about.