Police say young girls frequently go missing from Maoist-occupied districts, some feared taken by force
NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police battling Maoist rebels in east India suspect the left-wing militants are trafficking poor, rural girls to cities where they are often exploited as domestic workers, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday.
Police in Jharkhand state said intelligence agencies had discovered information indicating that the Communist Party of India-Maoists (CPI-M) and the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) were supplying girls from the region to at least 20 placement agencies, according to the report.
"We found the information to be true," said Anis Gupta, police superintendent for Jharkhand's Khunti district.
The Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless, have operated for decades across a wide swathe of central and eastern India. The militants are seeking the violent overthrow of the Indian state and routinely target police and paramilitary forces.
Police said young girls frequently go missing from Maoist-occupied districts of Khunti and Gumla, adding that while some are believed to have migrated voluntarily, others — especially those from poor tribal families — are duped or are forcibly taken.
Anti-trafficking charities in the Indian capital said it was possible that Maoist groups were involved in human trafficking.
"We have also found out that they have contacts with the banned outfits in Jharkhand, and (placement agencies) seek their help in supplying children to households and factories in (the New Delhi metropolitan area)," said Rishi Kant from Shakti Vahini charity in Delhi.
The Maoist groups have denied the allegations.
"It is propaganda cooked by the police to defame us. We oppose migration and all kinds of displacement. It’s the work of capitalist forces, not us," Deenbandhu, the committee secretary of the CPI (Maoist), was quoted as saying.
South Asia, with India at its centre, is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). More than 150,000 people are known to be trafficked within South Asia every year, but the trade is conducted underground and the real number is likely much higher.
Thousands of young girls are trafficked in India alone, including many from Nepal and Bangladesh, and sold into forced marriage, bonded work as prostitutes or maids, or paid for their organs.
(Editing by Alisa Tang: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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