There is a £1,200km long open border between Nepal and India that makes it easy for Nepali children to cross into India or be taken there by traffickers. Many children (mainly boys) do so after running away from home or, with the blessing of their families, in search of employment. It is believed that this underlying outflow of children surged in the wake of the 2015 earthquakes. Once inside India, rather like in the film “Lion”, children can travel for remarkable distances as stowaways on Indian trains. See this boy’s story. Eventually their adventure ends when they are picked up (usually at railway stations) by the police or Indian NGOs. They are then placed in miserable “children’s shelters” like the one pictured. Up until our involvement little effort was made by the Indian authorities to trace the children’s families and to all intents and purposes the children effectively became prisoners in the shelters.
Since August 2015 ChoraChori-Nepal has rescued and repatriated over 200 Nepali children from these shelters. This has usually involved ChoraChori-Nepal rescue teams visiting India several times to liaise with local Child Welfare Committees and overcome bureaucratic hurdles. Sometimes families go directly to collect their children after ChoraChori-Nepal has notified them of their whereabouts. Most of the returned children are successfully reunited with families after a short stay at our Kathmandu transit hostel where all their needs are provided for, including any necessary rehabilitation. In respect of the latter, children can return to Nepal with a range of medical conditions such as scabies after the chronic neglect of the “children’s shelters”. Worse still, others may have severe mental health issues after months, even years of de facto imprisonment and lack of loving care.
It should be noted that a major rescue conducted by ChoraChori-Nepal in March 2017 was profiled in the highly regarded Nepali Times. This has done much to raise awareness of the plight of Nepali children in India. But just as we thought matters could not be any worse in respect of displaced children in India, a major scandal broke in early 2018. Following a research visit by an Indian organisation it emerged that the “children’s shelter” in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, had been a focus for the serial and systematic sexual abuse and alleged murder of girl residents. This was perpetrated by the shelter owner, Brajesh Thakur, a local politician and media baron, along with a number of accomplices, including the local District Child Protection Officer. For the full story see this BBC report from the time.
ChoraChori-Nepal, being the only NGO that goes into India in search of Nepali children, is the first port of call for the Nepal authorities when they are informed about displaced children. We have been pleased to facilitate communications between Nepal government bodies and their counterparts in India (Child Welfare Committees and Social Welfare Departments) where no previous channels of communication existed. Indeed, this was a central part of the original problem. If you can help us with a donation towards our unique work then please use the button below. Your donation will show in £ but translates into your own currency on your bank card statement. Thank you!