The gruesome case of a missing 13-year-old Dalit girl which turns into a shocking sex trafficking racket, has sent the state police scurrying to track down as many as 80 suspects in Andhra Pradesh.

The teenager, who is from Medikonduru village in Guntur, was allegedly raped by 65 men for over six months — not just clients, but also organisers of the ring, Guntur’s Assistant Superintendent of Police K. Supraja told #KhabarLive. The other 15 suspects out of the list of 80 are women, Supraja said.

The Guntur police have registered a case under sections 370 and 370-A — both dealing with trafficking — of the Indian Penal Code, as well as sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act). 

Taking advantage of her, age and considering her age would attract more money from customers, the minor was sent to several brothels in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, including Hyderabad,” Supraja said. “The minor was given intoxicants so the men could have their way with her. She has developed a severe infection in her private parts.”

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Seventy-four people — including 14 women — have been tracked down and arrested, while six are absconding, the Asst SP added. Suspects include software employees, B.Tech. students, and even a student in London who is absconding, Supraja said. A lookout notice has already been issued for him, she said.

The incident has come to light at a time when Andhra Pradesh has gained notoriety for being among the top-ranked states for human trafficking in India, with Vijayawadaemerging as one of the state’s main transit points. 

The Dalit teen’s ordeal began during the second wave of the Covid pandemic last May-June at the Guntur General Hospital when a woman, identified as Swarna Kumari, befriended the alleged victim and her family when her mother was admitted there.

Kumari, a sex worker, was on the lookout for young girls, Asst SP Supraja said. After the mother passed away in June, Kumari persuaded the girl’s father into allowing her to live with her, promising to help the girl tide over the grief. 

The teenager was pushed into prostitution on the third day of her stay with the woman but was afraid to confide in her father, Supraja said.

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The girl was too scared to tell her father. He would call regularly to check on her and Kumari would promise him they were safe in a nearby village,” she said.

Around July or August, Kumari told the girl’s father that she was taking her to Nellore to see B. Anandaiah, a quack who gained popularity in Andhra during Covid and whose supposed cure had left scores of people ill. 

Instead, Kumari took the girl to Hyderabad, and Vijayawada and other places in Andhra, and kept her in brothels, the Asst SP added. 

The teenager finally managed to escape when they were at Guntur’s Nallapadu in October, but ran into a middleman, who, pretending to help her, took her to see two women, Jashintha and her daughter Hemalatha, in Krishna district, Supraja said.

Jashintha posed as a women’s rights activist in order to lure young women and force them into prostitution. She left the Home Guards in 1988 after five years of service, Supraja said. 

Once the girl came to her, Jashintha kept her in a separate house in Guntupalli village in Krishna district, where men would sexually assault her, Supraja said. 

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It was from this house that she was rescued, the Asst SP said, because the girl’s father grew increasingly suspicious of Kumari’s evasive replies to questions about her. He finally reported her missing on 16 December. Given Andhra’s notoriety for human trafficking, Supraja was assigned to the case two days later, on 18 December.   

The first set of arrests — of 22 people — came on 22 December. But it took the police months to really understand and reveal the true scale of the racket.    

“Through them (the first arrests), we started to join the dots — other men and pimps involved from East Godavari, West Godavari, Nellore, and even Hyderabad,” Supraja said. .” 

Supraja said no other minors were involved, and no other brothels were raided. “We were solely focused on the minor’s complaint,” she added.

Several of those arrested are on conditional bail, she said. “But all of them spent at least 100 days in jail,” she said. “We made sure we had the evidence before adding names to the list.#KhabarLive #hydnews