How A Missing Minor Girl’s Rescue Uncovered A Grisly Secret: 55 Children Employed In Slaughterhouse

Swati Goel Sharma

May 31, 2024, 10:52 AM | Updated 11:23 AM IST

A man unloads a buffalo near a slaughterhouse in Meerut (Representative Image)
A man unloads a buffalo near a slaughterhouse in Meerut (Representative Image)
  • A minor missing from West Bengal was found in a New Delhi slaughterhouse with 54 other child workers.
  • A minor girl went missing from her house in West Bengal in February. It was soon revealed that she had eloped with her lover.

    Three months of search by police and non-government organisations led to a distressing discovery on Wednesday — she was found working in harrowing conditions at a slaughterhouse in a suburb of New Delhi.

    Along with her, a team of police and activists found 54 other children employed at the meat factory during a raid.

    The children, working alongside older men, were found involved in tasks ranging from slaughtering the animals to meat-packing and cleaning the premises, an activist who participated in the raid told Swarajya.

    The activist described the stench as unbearable. “The time I was there has been the most difficult of my life,” he said, adding, “Employing children at a slaughterhouse is just so inhumane.”

    The discovery has sent shockwaves through the public. The children’s exploitation and the hazardous conditions they were working in have prompted calls for justice and stricter measures to protect children.

    On 22 February, a police complaint was filed in a police station of Malda district in West Bengal for suspected kidnapping of the girl, Sofia Sultana (name changed to protect the identity of the minor). Her parents named a 19-year-old man as the kidnapper.

    West Bengal-based activist Sidhant Ghosh assisted the family in their efforts to trace the girl. Ghosh told Swarajya that they found the man first took her to Telangana and, after a few weeks, moved her to Ghaziabad, a district adjoining New Delhi. The two studied at the same madrassa before they eloped.

    After tracing her location in Masuri village, Ghosh contacted an organisation in New Delhi, Mission Mukti. A team of activists visited the village and soon learnt that both the girl and the man who she eloped with were employed in a slaughterhouse.

    Mission Mukti head Virendra Singh explained how the couple landed up in the meat factory: “In Masuri village lives an aunt of the man. She cooks food for employees of the slaughterhouse,” he said.

    Singh contacted the New Delhi-based National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, commonly called the National Child Commission, which in turn contacted the Ghaziabad police to conduct a raid on 29 May.

    “It is suspected that these children are trafficked from West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and are being used by the perpetrators as child labour in inhuman and unhygienic condition,” the letter by the commission to the Ghaziabad Superintendent of Police sent on 27 May said.

    To their shock, it was not just that couple but more than 50 other underage boys and girls working at the slaughterhouse.

    During counselling, it was revealed that most children indeed hailed from Bengal and Bihar, and were brought to the National Capital Region with promises of jobs and shelter. A member of the raid noted that all but three children belong to the Muslim community.

    Kanoongo told Swarajya that of the 55 minors, 33 are girls. At the time of the raid, they were engaged in chopping parts of slaughtered buffaloes. The slaughterhouse processes buffalo meat, and each child was promised Rs 300 a day.

    On 30 May, a first information report (FIR) was filed against the slaughterhouse owner, Yasin Qureshi, under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. He is currently absconding.

    Reports indicate that the slaughterhouse is a major player in the meat industry, exporting meat to the Middle East, West Africa, Egypt, and Far Eastern countries.

    The rescued minors revealed they lived inside the same premises as the slaughterhouse.

    Singh termed the action against the slaughterhouse owner inadequate.

    “These children, who slaughter animals all day – are we supposed to believe they can lead a normal childhood out of their workplace? Is this work not instilling violent tendencies in them?” he said, and added, “But all that their employer has been charged with is violation of child labour laws, which are mostly bailable offences.”

    Ghosh said the parents of the Malda girl, who are farmers, were shocked to hear about her employment at the slaughterhouse.

    A police officer said further charges could be added after preliminary investigation is done. He said that the police are also probing if the buffaloes brought to the slaughterhouse are smuggled by cattle-rustling gangs.

    Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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