On January 4, 2018, 98 bonded labourers held a silent protest at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after being rescued from Jammu and Kashmir. Hailing from Chhattisgarh, the labourers were trafficked into J&K and put to work in brick kilns; rescued, they now demand their freedom.
According to the bonded labourers, the Reasi District Commissioner refused to give them their release certificates, forbidding a safe passage back home.
The labourers were rescued in the last week of December after they reached out to the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour (NCCEBL) Convener Nirmal Gorana. Collaborating with Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC) and Action Aid India, the NCCEBL led a 5-day rescue operation from December 27 to December 31, 2017.
As per Gorana, the women labourers were found to be anaemic, the children malnutritioned, and a lot of the workers were plagued by tuberculosis, but they never managed to receive basic healthcare.
Some of the bonded labourers have spent as many as 30 years working in the kilns, out of touch with their homes and families. According to the labourers, they would often be transferred between Jammu and Srinagar, and were made to work with a bare minimum pay, while being subjected to years of verbal and physical abuse.
Penniless, the workers were brought to Delhi, where they stay at a night shelter in Sarai Kale Khan while they await accommodation of their demands, which include the due daily wages of the last few years, release certificates, compensation and rehabilitation.