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‘Beaten up, bound for days, tortured’ — Assam worker accuses Haryana IPS, wife of bonded labour

The worker, a native of Mangaldoi, said she was tortured between March 2021 and February this year at IPS officer’s Panchkula residence. She is under treatment at Safdarjung Hospital.

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New Delhi: A 23-year-old domestic worker from Assam has accused a superintendent of police (SP)-rank IPS officer in Haryana’s Panchkula of bonded labour and torture, ThePrint has learnt.

According to the worker, who is a native of Assam’s Mangaldoi, she was tortured extensively between March 2021 and February this year by the serving IPS officer and his wife at their Panchkula residence. She allegedly suffered severe injuries and is currently admitted at the Safdarjung Hospital in the national capital.

Delhi Police filed a Zero FIR in the matter under several Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections, including unlawful compulsory labour, theft, wrongful confinement and causing hurt, at Fatehpur Beri Police Station on 8 February. The worker’s family lives in Fatehpur Beri area of Delhi. The case has now been transferred to Panchkula Police.

Speaking to ThePrint, the domestic worker detailed the ways in which she was tortured because she allegedly couldn’t meet her employers’ work “expectations” — for instance, waking up at 5 am daily, or doing chores round the clock.

“I was tied down with ropes for seven days (last month)… They threw water on me, beat me up with wooden sticks on a regular basis. They didn’t give me any meals for days, except loaves of bread, thrown on the ground. I was made to sleep on the tiled floor,” she said.

“The beatings used to last for hours, and I wouldn’t often be able to wake up for work the next day. Then it would repeat again,” she said in a shaky voice, adding that she is in “extreme pain”.

“They also cut my hair. They used wooden sticks to hit me, they slapped and kicked me in my abdomen… Madam would hit me more often but sir also beat me up once…” she said. ThePrint has seen images of the 23-year-old that show injuries all over her body.

She was hired through a one-person agency in Gurugram, run by a woman, who revealed to ThePrint on condition of anonymity that the IPS officer and his wife allegedly drove another domestic worker — a tribal woman — to run away after torturing her similarly for a fortnight last year.

Benita Mary Jaiker, South Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), declined to provide further details on the accused named in the FIR. “We have sent the details to the Superintendent of Police, Panchkhula, on Wednesday,” the DCP said. 

Panchkula DCP Mohit Handa told ThePrint: “We are yet to receive the complaint formally but have taken cognisance of the matter. Further action will be taken.”

ThePrint reached the IPS officer in question and his wife via multiple calls and texts but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.


Also read: A photo on Delhi Metro sparked a debate on domestic help. Now pass a law to protect them


The ‘ordeal’ of the worker

The Assamese woman has been working as a domestic worker since dropping out of Class 10 due to her family’s poor financial situation, said her mother, who is with her in the hospital as her attendant. 

While the mother works at a baby care centre, the father is a security guard. The family lives in a rented apartment in Fatehpur Beri. 

“She was hired in March 2021. In the initial 15-20 days, she told me that they are treating her well, giving her the same food as they eat, but mentioned that she is losing weight. However, they would always be very strict about calls and wouldn’t allow her to talk freely,” said the mother.

“After around 20 days, I came to know that they took away her two mobile phones — one smartphone and another spare phone that we had sent as back-up,” the mother said.

According to the mother, the worker’s belongings, documents, clothes and money were taken away by the officer and his wife. Moreover, she wasn’t paid a penny even though she was hired for Rs 15,000 per month.

“Once during lockdown, my son asked my daughter for Rs 10,000. I told her to send me the money in my account. The employers abused me on the phone, and threatened me to teach her to do household work,” she said. “When I asked them to send her home for 10-15 days in October, they refused, saying that the woman who referred her had taken a commission.” 

“When I pleaded with them that if they don’t like her work, they should send her and I will come get her, they told me to call and come over. However, after October, they hardly responded to calls,” she added.


Also read: Increased work, domestic abuse — how Covid lockdown was especially hard on women in India


How the worker was found

On 4 February, the SP and his wife allegedly threw the domestic worker out of the house without footwear and winter clothing, after hitting her. This came days after they allegedly kept her tied up for seven days.

The worker was found on the streets by a police constable driver, who brought her to a nearby temple, gave her shoes and a shawl and made a call to her father. 

“He said that my daughter is in a terrible condition and we must immediately pick her up. She couldn’t walk… even covered some distance on her knees,” the mother said.

The next day, she was taken to a local doctor known to the family and was given vitamins and painkillers. But her condition deteriorated and after consulting the agency that referred her, a complaint was filed.

She was then admitted to the hospital.

Not an isolated case, claims agency

According to the one-person agency, another 20-21-year-old adivasi woman from Baksa, Assam — who was also referred to the police officer by her — had escaped the same SP’s house in April 2021 after working for about 15 days. 

The first domestic worker confirmed this to ThePrint, adding that she was also tortured.

“They cut her long hair, she told me how she was beaten up, I have seen marks. She went there on 17 March and ran away around 2 April as the torture was unbearable,” the woman who runs the agency said on condition of anonymity. 

Asked why she didn’t approach the police after this first case, the agency owner said she tried to reason with the couple and asked them not to torture the women but “feared” for the 23-year-old after the other worker escaped.

“We received threat calls to not speak about it to anyone,” she added.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)


Also read: Violence against women is a global health emergency. Data shows ‘irrefutable evidence’


 

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