By: Utpal Saikia
A woman and child activist, Rangu Souriya, a native of Panighata in Darjeeling hills of West Bengal has earned for herself the fame of being a fearless crusader against human trafficking, a social evil that has affected millions of women and children across the country. Souriya is the founder of Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra, a non-profit organisation based in Siliguri, dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking. She is the recipient of Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Awards, 2011. Currently, Rangu works with Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra, a Siliguri-based NGO and helps rescue girls from Darjeeling, North East India and Nepal who have been trafficked to various cities across India and abroad.
She grew up in tea gardens where her father was an employee and as a child she witnessed many children going missing from tea gardens. These incidences created awareness of human trafficking racket rampant in Darjeeling. Thus her urge to fight the heinous act of human trafficking became more serious while studying at Darjeeling Govt. College and she took a pledge to rescue minor girls and boys from the hands of these mafias. Her close association with social activists at college gave her the foundation for becoming a full-time social activist in future.
In her fearless fight against human sex trafficking, Rangu Souriya has till date rescued over 20000 girls and minors from brothels and domestic servitude across the country. Ever since her voluntary involvement in the rescue of a 13-year-old girl in 2004 from the house of a businessman, Rangu has never looked back.
Based out of Siliguri in North Bengal, the transit hub for major sex rackets, Kanchanjunga Udhar Kendra, the organisation she started deals with international crime syndicates engaged in child trafficking in different parts of India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. She constantly receives threats from goons and mafia coupled with the lure of a handsome sum of money. However, set with a mission to free women from sexual bondage and exploitation, Rangu Souriya relentlessly continues her fight against human sex trafficking. For her bravery, she has received the Prestigious 100 Women Awards given by President of India in 2016.
Her bravery and good work has earned her the Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Awards in 2011 and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Women Achievers’ Award in 2009. She has also been honoured by more than 20 regional organisations for her services. In January 2016, as part of the 100 Women Initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (India) that aims to recognise and acknowledge 100 women who are making a difference in their communities across the country, she received the 100 Women Achievers of India award from the President of India.
According to her, majority of girls she has rescued are from Assam, Sikkim, North Bengal and Nepal who were trafficked to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Patna. In 2004, she went to Kathmandu to seek guidance from Anuradha Koirala and team Maiti Nepal. After interacting and learning from them, she came back to Darjeeling and started Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra.
“It would be unwise for me to say that I don’t fear for my safety, but I believe that since God showed me which path to walk on, He will take care of my safety as well. I get threats almost every day. But if we fold our hands and do nothing, tomorrow there will be another rape of a helpless girl child.”
In spite of her fearless attempts to rescue girls caught in the quagmire of sex traffickers, she is also facing another challenge – that of safely rehabilitating the victims and sending them back into the society. However noble may be such activity, it demands financial support. Rangu worked out a model of dairy farming to fund her activities. For which she borrowed savings of her parents and also took 1 lakh rupees as the bank loan. Through this diary, she managed to sustain her mission’s needs. But later on, she was so busy with her social activist role that she couldn’t concentrate on farming. So she sold off all the cows and invested that money for this social cause. In this process, she had to cross several obstacles, face life threats, ignore the offer of bribes in the form of a huge sum of money to stop her fight against these mafias.
Rangu Souriya has now embarked on a mission to build a home for the women she rescues. If the home is built, the rescued girls can be rehabilitated, brought back to normalcy, provided with new life skills and the necessary confidence for a new life. She is raising funds on Milaap, seeking global support and particularly from her own people in the east and north-east India. She needs an amount of INR 25 Lakh to construct a safe home for the women she rescues. So far Rangu receives little amount of fund raised by Milaap for the cause but by giving any small amount from a large number of raiser can built the home for shelter for women she rescues. It can be mentioned that Milaap is India’s largest crowd funding website. It raises funds online for needy in a distinct way. Donors can see online the status of the campaigning at any time. “If all of us come together, we can stop crime against women. This home will give them a chance for a new beginning, but I can’t do it alone. Your support will help hundreds of women live a life of dignity and freedom,” says Rangu. (For more details about the campaigning one can log in https://milaap.org/fundraisers/rangusouriya)
By: Utpal Saikia