On Thursday afternoon, a video of a woman being abducted by three men at Mandya district's Gejjalakere went viral. The video showed a landowner abducting a woman in broad daylight with the intent to force her into bonded labour.
In the video, 28-year-old Janakamma can be seen begging the man to let her free. Despite her pleas, the trio drag her outside her house and force her into a car. With the intervention of local activists and police, Janakamma was rescued within a few hours.
Twelve years ago Janakamma and her husband, Chinnathambi came to Karnataka from Tamil Nadu in search of a livelihood. Janakamma and Chinnathambi began working at the farm of a man named Nagesh. The couple had borrowed money from Nagesh for Chinnathambi's medical treatment and ever since, Nagesh allegedly forced Chinnathambi and Janakamma into bonded labour.
"He forced us into bonded labour a few months after we incurred the debt. He used to make us work at brick kilns, his farms, orchards and made us tend to cattle. Three years ago, my husband was put to work at a pig sty. His health was deteriorating because we never got proper food to eat. Due to an infection, he succumbed to a fever. That time, we had borrowed some more money from Nagesh amounting to Rs 30,000 and he told me to continue working to pay off the debt," Janakamma recalls.
Without proper nutrition, Janakkama too began developing health problems. She alleges that she faced bouts of fainting spell. Early in September, she contracted viral fever again. Still, Janakamma was forced to work in the fields and not take an hour's rest.
"By the evening, my condition was visibly worse. I told Nagesh that I had finished work and would go to the hospital. I escaped to Bekkalale village and stayed there for some time. But Nagesh found me there too, assaulted me and forced me to go back with him. Since this happened in another village where he does not have support, many people gathered and questioned him. He went away and told me that he would come back and kill me. I knew what his temper is like. I was really scared," Janakamma says.
On September 17, Janakamma witnessed a protest held by a local NGO Jeeta Vimukta, which works towards rescuing victims of bonded labour and spreads awareness. Janakamma first learnt that there is a mechanism which could help her at this protest.
"I was all set to file a case against him. I had finally gathered the courage to. On that morning, he learnt that I was in touch with social workers and he came and abducted me. Someone recorded it and sent it to the NGO workers," Janakamma says.
Basavaraj, a member of Jeeta Vimukta approached the police immediately and Janakamma was rescued. Nagesh was arrested and booked for abduction and under relevant sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and the Bonded Labour Act. His accomplices are still at large.