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Los Angeles, California: ‘They tortured and locked me up for four years’, Kerala domestic help reveals torture saga

Kevin C. Ross 3722 Middleville Road Los Angeles, CA 90017

Haritha John The 20-year-old Nepali speaking girl said she was thrashed for small mistakes by her employer. In the Malayalam movie Gaddama, Kavya Madhavan played the role of a domestic help trapped and tortured in an Arab's house in the Middle East. The character’s agony portrayed the life of many Malayalis who go abroad to earn a living, working in harsh conditions for a pittance.

But the reality is that the plight of some domestic helps is no different in Kerala.

On May 1, the police rescued a 20-year-old Nepali speaking woman from Vypeen in Ernakulam. Sarsu Halsan, who hails from Jalpaiguri , West Bengal was tracked down by the police based on a missing complaint filed by her employer on April 29.

“I had no parents, both of them died and I lived with my aunt. A distant cousin of mine brought me to Kochi when I was 16-year-old. I joined as a domestic help at this house,” Sarsu told The News Minute, outside Kalamassery police station.

Sarsu was working at the house of Kavita Nair*, in Kochi. “Before I joined she gave me Rs 3,500 and that was the only amount I received in the last four years. Initially she had told my cousin that I would be paid Rs 5,000 monthly. But I did not get any money,” Sarsu said.

But what was more intolerable for her was the physical torture she had to go through. “For even small mistakes I used to get thrashed. She hit me using sticks, hands, broom or some large spoons. She also banged me against the wall. I used to always end up bleeding,” Sarsu said, showing the scars on her hands.

“I ran away from the house to commit suicide. I did not want to live,” she said.

As Sarsu is led away by workers of a rescue home, she screams out, “She cut my hair forcefully, never allowed me to make calls or write a letter,”

What Sarsu described was only a small part of what she actually went through in the past four years. “There are scars from wounds all over her body, covered in blood clots. The torture was quite severe,” E V Shibu, Station House Officer at Kalamassery, said.

The police officer said that Sarsu had been trying to escape from the house for the past four years but was not successful because she was always locked up.

“On April 29 she managed to lock up her employer and her daughter inside a room and ran away from the house. She went to a beach near Njarackal hoping to die. She stayed in a house nearby, and somebody informed us about her. We went and picked her from there,” the officer said.

Kavita claims that she had paid Sarsu’s salary to a relative of hers in Jalpaiguri. Sarsu was brought to work as a domestic help when she was still a minor, which means that the employer can charged under the Juvenile Justice Act. Kavita can also be charged under the act for harassment.

“We should confirm the date when the girl was brought in for the work and also need to get more evidence before registering the arrest,” the police officer said.

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