Rambho was tricked into slavery after his father died. He worked 16 hours a day weaving carpets. When his fingers bled, the slave owner dipped them in oil and lit them on fire. That was before the raid that changed Rambho’s life forever.
Rambho and 10 other boys were rescued by Bal Vikas Ashram run by the Diocesan Development and Welfare Society (DDWS) in Uttar Pradesh, northern India—a grassroots organization that not only frees children from slavery, but houses them for six months as they recover from years of abuse, educates them and helps them learn to play again. Activists from the Bal Vikas Ashram also go to the remote villages where the traffickers sweet talk parents with false promises. The activists explain what is really happening and help vulnerable parents organize todemand their rights and earn a living.
Today, after 6 months in the ashram, Rambho knows how to read and write. He is back home and activists have helped his mother reclaim the family home that was lost when her husband died.
Rambho says he wants to be a guard when he grows up. He wants to keep other children free from slavery. “I won’t let anybody go there even by mistake. I’ll tell them that they hit you and they beat you and I would not let them go there ever.”
You can see and hear Rambho’s story in the documentary, Freedom and Beyond.
Q: Can you tell us your name and how old you are?
A: Rambho Kumar
Q: Can you tell us how you came here?
A: I was working in the carpet industry, and then Mr. Rajnath and Supriya came with two policemen and they got me from there.
Q: Can you tell me what growing up in your village was like?
A: I used to work at home and I also used to play. I used to go to the fields to work at times.
Q: Did you have fun at home? What was your recreation like?
A: I used to play and roam around with the kids living nearby.
Q: Did you have any brothers and sisters, and how many brothers and sisters did you have?
A: I have six brothers including me.
Q: How did you uh go to the looms?
A: He’s saying that – oh, I’m so sorry – uh uh a man named Shankar and the owner of the loom came and give 700 rupees in my house and got me to the loom.
Q: Did you want to go to the looms?
A: I didn’t want to go to the uh looms. I wanted to stay at home.
Q: How come you were made to go? Did your parents want you to go?
A: There was no money at home for us to eat and to have food so my mother told me to go.
Q: Were you very sad when you had to leave?
A: I was crying and saying that I don’t want to go there.
Q: What was your day like when you went to the loom?
A: For two days when I reached they made me sit and then they told me to learn how to use the machine and the loom. After that they took me to use the loom but my hand got cut. And when my hand got cut, the owner and his brother shut my eyes and they put my finger in boiling oil and said that now it’s all right, now you get back to work.
Q: What did the loom owner tell your parents? Where were they taking you? What did the loom owner promise to your parents? Where was he, what, what was he going to do to you?
A: He told my parents that he’s going to take and he’s going to educate me and make me do some work.
Q: Did the loom owner tell your parents that you’re going to be able to make some money and send it home?
A: He said that he’s going to give me money, and he’s going to make me work. He’ll send money home. And then after some time after working I can go back home but after a very long time he told me that I’m not going to be able to go back home ever.
Q: How did you learn how to weave a rug?
A: The loom owner taught me how to make it.
Q: What happened if you made a mistake while weaving the rug?
A: If any mistake is to be made by me, the loom owner used to take a stick and beat me up with that.
Q: How was the school and the sending the money home that the loom owner had promised you?
A: I used to keep asking the loom owner when I will go to school and the owner kept telling me now there is no school for you. Now you will spend the rest of the time weaving carpets.
Q: How many hours in a day did you work and what were your working conditions like?
A: I used to work from four in the morning till eleven in the night. There used to be about fifty people working and it was a fairly clean place.
Q: Did you get to have good food there, did you get to go outside and play? What were your conditions there; what was your life like?
A: Over there I wasn’t allowed to play or roam around or anything. I used to wake up in the morning at around four o’clock and go to work. At about ten o’clock we used to get our first meal which was not good. We didn’t like, I didn’t like the food over there, and then I would go back to weaving the carpets till about ten in the night. Till about nine in the night — at nine in the night we would get our second meal. And that was all we did in the day: weaving carpets, eating food, and going to sleep.
Q: How long were you working there in the loom?
A: I was there for one year.
Q: What did you think about when you were working there?
A: I wanted to go back home. I thought I’ll go back home and study over there.
Q: Did you study in the village before going to the loom?
A: No, before going I didn’t study in the village.
Q: When the raid happened in the loom, what were you thinking? What was happening around you? What did you feel about what was happening around you?
A: Uh, the owner used to tell us that um if the police ever comes, run away before they can catch you, so I knew that when the police comes I’ll be taken away from there and when I saw them coming I was very happy. As soon as they came the owner and his father and his brother and all the other people ran away. About ten of us were surrounded by the police. Six of them got away but four of us were got, uh, brought to the ashram. I was very happy when the police came because I knew that would be the end of my working in the loom.
Q: Were you scared at all when the police came?
A: I wasn’t scared at all because I knew they wouldn’t do anything to us.
Q: What is it like here at the ashram? Can you tell us the difference between here in the ashram and the loom where you worked?
A: I never used to like it there. We didn’t have time for anything. I always used to want to get away. When I came here I liked it because over here you get time to eat, you get time to play, to study. You have a time for everything over here. I really like it over here.
Q: What is your favorite time over here? What do you like most about being here?
A: I like studying the most.
Q: Are you eager to go home?
A: He doesn’t want to go back home.
Q: Um, do you feel like going home?
A: I feel like going home but I’m not going to go home right now, I going to go home after six months.
Q: How long has it been since you’ve seen your mother, and are you missing your family a lot?
A: I haven’t seen my mother for the last 13 months and I miss my family a lot.
Q: If you could tell people in the world what happens to children in the looms, what would you tell them?
A: I won’t let anybody go there even by mistake. I’ll tell them that they hit you and they beat you and I would not let them go there ever.
Q: If you would you could tell people in the world children and their life in the looms, uh what would you like to tell them?
A: They hit the children over there and if there’s any mistake the children make they beat them up. I won’t let them go there.
Q: Uh, we might go to your village and show this to your mother and your brothers and your family. Is there any message that you would like to give for any of them?
A: I just want to say that my days here are good and there’s no problem with anything. I’m liking it over here.
Q: What would you like to do after you leave here? How do you think your life will be in the future? How do you think it will be different after you leave here?
A: I want to go in my village and be a guard over there, and I think that if I get out of here then I’ll be able to study and I’ll be able to earn money.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
A: I want to say that my father has passed away and I have six brothers and my mother now living in the village.
Q: Is it hard for your family in the village without your father?
A: It’s difficult for food and uh water in the village. After my father, uh when my father died, we put 6,000 rupees into expenses for his treatment but still he passed away. Now we don’t even have a place to stay over there in the village.
Q: Do you want to help your mother in the future and find her a place to stay?
A: I want to help my mother find a house.