Sahim Salim in New Delhi
Sahim Salim investigates the shocking death of 10-year-old Moin Khan, the latest victim of child labour in the country.
When 10-year-old Moin Khan’s parents sent their child to New Delhi with his maternal uncle, the couple from Madhubani in Bihar would have never known the fate that lay before him.
They didn’t know that Moin’s uncle Kalimullah Khan was taking him away to work 14-hour shifts at his makeshift factory in a single-room rented apartment in northwest Delhi. The tortured 10-year-old paid with his life for being slow on April 16.
His maternal uncle beat him to death. The crime would not have come to light had a cremation caretaker, who noticed Kalimullah’s brother trying to cremate the little boy’s body the following morning, not informed the police.
Rediff.com has learnt that four other children too were subjected to torture the day Moin was fatally assaulted. But their punishment was milder that Moin’s.
After being beaten up several times ‘with a blunt object’, the little boy’s feet and hands were tied up and thrown across the room. Moin fell to the ground, head-first, to his death.
Kalimullah had brought the children to Delhi by paying their guardians Rs 500 as advance and a promise of a monthly income. The children were forced to wake up early in the mornings and had to role bidis through the day, till midnight.
They were paid nothing and given just two breaks — lunch and dinner.
A 7-year-old boy, who was rescued from the factory after Moin’s death, told rediff.com, “Kalim was a really bad man. He beat up all of us if we made the smallest of mistakes. His punishments were severe.”
“He would put hot iron rods into our pants or he would hang us upside down from the fan or even throw us hard on the floor. We were not allowed to go out or talk to anyone. In all, we were five children working in the factory and one adult always supervised us.”
The 7-year-old (whose identity is being withheld) bore injury marks across his body and looks weak and fragile.
When asked how Moin was, the little boy had a faraway look.
“He was slow at things and Kalim would often get angry at him. He was given the most extreme punishments. One of the other boys told me that all they were punished too. Moin was picked high in the air and thrown across the room, after which he stopped moving. Kalimuddin got a little scared and tried to wake him up, but he would not,” the boy said.
Police have sent the little boy to NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s Mukte Asram in Burari, where he is undergoing counseling and treatment.
From what the police has ascertained so far, Kalimullah first consulted his brother after the child died. He then fled the area after leaving instructions with his brother to cremate little Moin.
Police rescued the boy’s body draped in white as per rituals, just as he was about to be cremated after the caretaker informed police of a group of ‘suspicious’ people were trying to cremate a child.
When the police visited the factory, they could only rescue one other child working there. The other three, police suspect, have been taken away by Kalimullah or hidden somewhere. One of the three missing children is deaf and mute.
“We have registered a case under sections 302/201/34 (murder, causing disappearance of evidence of offence). Relevant sections of the Juvenile Justice Act also have been added to the FIR. Further investigations are on,” Deputy Commissioner of police (northwest), Meenu Choudhury said.
Moin’s body is still in the mortuary, as his parents have not reached Delhi yet.
The JJ colony lane in Bharat Nagar
The single lane in Bharat Nagar houses several other small factories similar to the one run by Kalimullah, child rights activists say.
Atleast 70 children are working in rented accommodations in this DDA colony, which used to be a slum earlier.
“What is interesting here is that on January 12 last year, we had rescued nine children from this very lane. At that time, Kalimullah’s factory also had been identified, but he had somehow managed to hide the children. Of the estimated 70 working in that lane, we managed to rescue only 9; the rest had been hidden,” Rajesh Sanger from Bachpan Bachao Andolan told rediff.com.
“The police also at the time did not register the non-bailable sections of the Juvenile Justice Act, which led to the arrested owners coming out on bail and continuing with their factories. Law enforcement itself is a problem here.”