Human Trafficking to India: Young female TikTok users targeted
Saima [not her real name], 15, led a regular teenage life of this generation, making videos on popular mobile app TikTok, before she was trafficked to India with the promise of a better job.
She was one of the victims of Rifatul Islam Ridoy, 26, popularly known as Ridoy Babo on TikTok, who lured her to the South Indian city Bengaluru promising her a well-paid job two months ago, along with four other girls, through Sathkhira border.
Saima, who used to work at a shopping mall in Bangladesh, thought that she would get a better job in India.
After going there, however, she found that they were trafficked to India for sex work.
As they refused to be a part of the trade, the gang members tortured them and forced them into sex work.
After a month and half, three of them were able to flee the Indian state and return home recently.
After a video clip of a 22-year-old woman being tortured and sexually assaulted went viral on social media, Indian police on Thursday arrested Ridoy Babo, along with five other Bangladeshis from Bengaluru.
Bangladesh police then began investigation and found a transnational racket, involving some Bangladeshis, trafficking some young girls using TikTok and forcing them into sex work in India.
Tejgaon police has interrogated a few India-returned victims. Yesterday, their families came to Hatirjheel Police Station to meet the girls, but failed despite several attempts.
A relative of Saima, wishing not to be named, told The Daily Star that Saima and the four girls were kept at a rented house in Bengaluru. A man controlled the trade over phone and sent the girls to clients.
"Before going to India in March, Saima had been missing for five days. We could not trace her. Then she called us from India and told us that Ridoy took her there… A few days later, she called again and said she was being tortured and wanted to come home at any cost."
Two of the girls who went along with her, fled the house first and waited for her near the border. After two days, Saima was also able to flee Bengaluru.
"We sent Tk 50,000 to the girls, who managed people for help at the border and then returned to Dhaka with Saima," said the relative of the girl.
He said a law enforcement agency picked up Saima from her Hatirjheel home on Thursday night, interrogated her and released her the next day.
On Friday night, Hatirjheel police took her into custody.
'RACKET TARGETS FEMALE TIKTOKERS'
A transnational gang, involving some Bangladeshis, has been trafficking young girls using Tiktok and forcing them into sex work in India, Md Shahidullah, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Tejgaon Division), said at a press briefing at his office yesterday.
"School and college students, and sometimes young housewives are their targets."
Police found a Facebook group administered by this racket.
When young girls and boys make videos on TikTok, they get acquainted to each other and join the Facebook group. An admin of the Facebook group was the main patroniser of the trafficking racket, police said.
"Around 700-800 TikTok users took part in a pool party last year at a resort in the suburbs of Dhaka city, organised by Ridoy Babo," the official said.
This correspondent also found a promotional video of the pool party where at least 10 young female TikTok users invited other users to join the party in mid-September last year.
Police said the gang members then targeted some female TikTok users and later trafficked them to India in the name of providing well-paid jobs there at shopping malls and beauty parlours.
Police said Ridoy Babo coordinates the international trafficking ring.
Ridoy has more than 71,000 followers on his TikTok account, in which he uploaded 696 videos.
Members of the gang, all aged between 20 and 25, had trafficked several other women earlier.
Police said there are more people involved in the racket and that they are trying to arrest the main perpetrators.
Meanwhile, police brought in four of Ridoy's "associates" into custody for questioning.
"Some criminals from the south-western region of Bangladesh and several Indian states are involved in the gang. Its network is stretched out to Dubai, UAE and some other countries in the Middle East," the DC said at the briefing.
"This racket takes girls to India through illegal means. The main place of this racket is in Bengaluru's Anandapura. During their stay in India, the victims are tortured, sexually assaulted and then photographed and recorded by the culprits. They are later forced into sex work."
The gang members blackmail the victims, threatening to send the photos and videos to their families or leak those on social media, in case the victims try to escape.
Police are investigating those involved in the crime and trying to bring back those arrested in India. All the Bangladeshi arrestees went to India illegally, the Tejgaon DC said.