Overcoming severe trauma, a woman has cleared the higher secondary examination in West Bengal much later than usual and is eligible for college education.
The reason for the delay is she, as a teenager, was sold thrice in various states by human traffickers within four months during which she was raped by several men and even forcibly married off to a man 30 years older than her, a CID officer of West Bengal told PTI.
A POCSO court in North 24 Parganas district recently sentenced four persons to 20 years in jail and two others to 10 years in connection with the case of the woman who is now 22 years old.
The CID officers arrested the six accused, including a woman and the victim's "boyfriend" Rahul, from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand from where she was finally rescued.
"By God's grace, we got back our daughter. Whatever happened has happened. We are happy that those responsible for her plight were punished," said her father who works in a sari shop.
The family is now looking for a match for her, he said.
Her ordeal started seven years ago when she met a man on a social media platform, fell in love with him, and fled home on the pretext of going to school in search of a new life.
On January 7, 2015, she met the man near Science City in Kolkata and he took her to Babughat, over 10 kilometres away, to catch a bus to Bihar, the officer of the state CID's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit said.
Investigation revealed that Rahul left the 15-year-old girl inside the bus promising her to return soon but he never did. It was later found that he had sold her to another trafficker for Rs 1.5 lakh.
A man, claiming to be Rahul's friend, took her from the bus to the Howrah station and travelled by train to Bihar. She was again sold to another man named Kamal who took the minor to a woman, Chitra, at Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, the officer who led the team that rescued her said.
Chitra, who is the third person to have purchased her, forcibly "married" her off to her 45-year-old brother who left her with the Bijnor woman after a month. Then Chitra's son started raping the girl.
"It was at this time that the victim got a chance to telephone her mother using Chitra's mobile and inform her about her location," the officer said.
By that time, the police in West Bengal had found that the victim's own mobile was last traced in Bihar and from then on, it was kept switched off. The "boyfriend" was also arrested in Bihar.
Chitra got scared and asked Kamal to take the minor away. Kamal and his aide Bhisham then brought her to Kashipur in Uttarakhand, the CID officer said.
When the duo came to know that Chitra and her son Luv were arrested, they got enraged, raped the victim many times and fled leaving her at Kashipur Junction railway station.
The CID officer remembered how he and his team found the traumatised girl at one corner of the railway station. They rescued her and brought her back to West Bengal.
"She was unable to speak because of trauma and remained silent for more than a month. We had to take her to a psychologist and after several sessions of counselling, she broke down and divulged details of her suffering," he said.
It is heartening to see that the girl, who was staying at a government home since her rescue in May 2015, started studying and is now eligible for college education, the officer said.
He, however, lamented that the force could not trace the man who brought the girl from the bus and sold her to Kamal.
A POCSO court at Barasat in North 24 Parganas district convicted the six. It sent Chitra and "boyfriend" Rahul to 10 years in jail and the remaining four - Kamal, Chitra's brother, Luv and Bhisham - to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment on July 28.
Additional Public Prosecutor of Barasat court, Shyamal Dutta, said he is very happy that the girl got justice.
"It was a long and hard battle. But I believe that justice is delayed by two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic," Dutta said.