Kin of missing Kamlaris urge govt to find their whereaboutsAasharani Tharu was just six when she was indentured by her parents to a family in Kathmandu. She was sold as a Kamlari, a bonded labourer, by her parents through a local landlord of Thakurdwara Municipality-9 in Bardiya district.
Aasharani Tharu was just six when she was indentured by her parents to a family in Kathmandu. She was sold as a Kamlari, a bonded labourer, by her parents through a local landlord of Thakurdwara Municipality-9 in Bardiya district.
That was 13 years ago, when the Kamlari tradition was still prevalent among the indigenous Tharu community.
Aasharani never returned home after she left for Kathmandu. Her condition and whereabouts are unknown, says her mother, Bharthani.
“I never saw her after she left for Kathmandu. When I finally got in touch with her employer over telephone, I was told that she no longer lived with them, that she had eloped and they did not know where she was,” said Bharthani.
The Tharu community is currently celebrating the festival of Maghi. And it is during the time of festivity when Bharthani deeply feels the absence of her daughter, who would be 19 today.
Bharthani said a man named Bijaya Shah had taken Aasharani to Kathmandu to work as a housemaid at his sister’s house. After learning about her daughter’s disappearance, Bharthani had visited Kathmandu and filed a missing person report with police.
“There has been no progress in her search till date. At this point I can only hope that she is well and living happily, wherever she might be,” Bharthani said.
Bharthani is not the only parent trying desperately to find the whereabouts of her Kamlari daughter.
Tularani Tharu, of Shovanagar settlement in Barbardiya-10, said her daughter has also been missing for the last 11 years.
Her daughter was working at a hotel in Gualriya before she vanished without any trace.
“The people who ran the hotel told me that my daughter died of a snakebite, but I don’t believe them. They could not offer any evidence to convince us that she was dead. I request the concerned authorities to find the whereabouts of my daughter,” Tularani said.
Aasa Chaudhary, another Kamlari girl from Rajipur-4, Kailali, has also been missing for the last 15 years. She was indentured to a family in Dhangadi, according to her mother, Bajari.
“One of my relatives had found a job for my daughter at the house of this landlord in Dhangadi 15 years ago. I don’t know where she went after that. Her employer told me that she fled the house a long time ago, which I find hard to believe because my daughter never returned home. Where would she go?”
The families of missing Kamlari girls have urged the government, human rights organisations and other concerned sides to help them reunite with their daughters.
The Kamlari tradition was not recognised as slavery until the Supreme Court’s verdict in 2006.
Even after that, keeping Kamlaris was still practiced in many parts of the country, as the government was too slow to enforce anti-Kamlari laws. It was only in June 2013 that the government formally declared an end to the Kamlari practice, following protests from former Kamlaris.
According to the government data, 12,700 Kamlaris have been rescued and
rehabilitated so far.