On April 22nd, the body of a 12-year-old girl was found burned in a home confirmed to belong to her employers in India’s Assam state. Her employer, 70-year-old Prakash Borthakur, and his son, Nayanmoni Borthakur, have been arrested in connection to her death.
According to The Assam Tribune, the girl’s parents revealed that she had been working for Borthakur for the last four years, meaning she had been working as his housekeeper since she was around eight years old. Her family is from a lower income village which lacks access to proper schools, so her parents sent her to stay with Borthakur so that she could go to school. Assam police released a statement on Twitter indicating that Borthakur had claimed that the girl’s death was a suicide. However, after further inspection, the police suspect that she had actually been murdered. Indian labour laws prohibit the labour of any child under the age of 14, so Borthakur and his son were immediately arrested.
After the arrest, the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights reported that some of the neighbours indicated that the Borthakurs had physically and mentally abused the girl in their employ. Her family said that the girl was not allowed to leave and return home over the last four years she had been working for them. Most recently, the girl was revealed to have been pregnant before her death, indicating that she may also have been sexually abused.
According to a 2016 report by Save the Children, there are approximately 8.2 million child labourers between the ages of five to fourteen. The report also reveals that approximately 80% of child labourers come from rural areas in India. The sad reality is that child labour is often motivated by necessity. Young children are forced to work in order to provide additional income to their families. In other, similarly common cases, children in underprivileged neighborhoods are forced to leave their homes and stay with other people in order to go to school. Cases like this one, where children with hopes of a better life are abused because of their economic situation, are especially tragic.
As of the time of this writing, Assam Police have opened an investigation and the Borthakurs are currently incarcerated. Though no outcome will amend or rectify her tragic loss, I hope this child’s story will shine a light on the longstanding issue of child labor and push officials to combat the ongoing crisis.