17 March 2011, New Delhi: Global March has learned that Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi and four other child rights activists have been injured during a rescue effort to save child bonded labourers from zari embroidery units in an area of New Delhi, India. The BBA rescue team, led by BBA Founder Kailash Satyarthi, was attacked by a group of local people and employers, some armed with knives. The four injured members of the rescue team have been hospitalised and two vehicles were also damaged in the attack.
BBA had secured the release of children through the appropriate legal channels and the rescue team was accompanied by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Gandhinagar. However, the police presence, consisting of only three officers and no senior officer, was too small given the sensitivity of the area and the tensions that were running high on the street. BBA had informed the police well in advance of the rescue attempt to try and ensure an adequate police presence for protection not only of its own team, but also the children being rescued.
Hundreds of people gathered as the rescue team emerged from the work premises with the children to transport them to safety and freedom. It was at this point that the group was attacked and the children were snatched away from the rescue team. The three police officers were overwhelmed and could not control the mob, becoming mere spectators of the violent attack. This is the third time in a span of five months and second time this week that BBA teams have been attacked during rescue operations. In addition, the BBA office was broken into and ransacked in November 2010.
Speaking following the attack, Kailash Satyarthi said: “Thousands of children are trafficked and enslaved in the capital of Delhi. In spite of strong directions by the Delhi High Court, human rights activists are attacked indiscriminately and are unable to gain cooperation from law enforcement agencies. The employers concerned and some sections of society appear to believe themselves to be above the law and carry out these attacks without fear of retribution.”
He continued: “These attacks are becoming more violent and more frequent and this cannot be allowed to continue. Human rights defenders need to be protected in their work. BBA will continue its important work to tackle child exploitation wherever it occurs and to work towards a society where children can live in freedom and safety and benefit from their fundamental rights. We will not be deterred in our mission by mindless violence and ignorance and we call on like-minded organisations around the world and all decent members of society to support global efforts to end child enslavement and child labour.”