In this age of ultra-modernism, learning about slavery thriving under clandestine wraps ruffles up one'scredulous beliefs. When we at large boast of liberated world with uninhibited ideas, there exists in its underbelly annals of gruesome and grisly tales of incarcerated Homo sapiens. Their abject life under utter subjugation lets down modern-day achievements. Young nubile girls get exploited for flesh trade or other appeasement act at the beck and call of more powerful strata of society. Indeed it'sa horrendous saga when a human gets choked with one'spent-up feelings. And this pall of subjugation descends over people of all nationalities. It is the meek and gentle who are susceptible to get engulfed by these luscious and avaricious marauders even in hip places like downtown London. We are reminded of Boris Pasternak juggling Dr Zhivago and Jekyll Hyde with a difference that the book doesn'tface a ban for its expos?. Slavery with a new makeover but with the same macabre face lurks in our modern society, marauding with aplomb panache. Slavery has found different forms and also different masters with suave veneer and affable countenance. But what remains unchanged is the pitiable fate of the trampled underlings. Its been two hundred years when slavery has been abolished in America. But yet there is flagrant violation and our society is reeling under such turpitude.
The author reminds us that slavery has been passed on to us through ?western civilization where it has coexisted from primeval times pre-dating slavery in classical Greece and Rome?. Rahilla Gupta pops out a whopping figure of 27 million slaves entrapped worldwide of which 15 to 20 million have to bear the drudgery of bonded labour. Even the International Labour Office (ILO) admits the ignominy of 1.2 million children trafficked internationally.
Rahila Gupta ordains slavery upon several sorts of muted submissions as forced labour under duress amounting to slavery. ?The scenarios are man and varied: a massage parlour on your local high street where a trafficked woman sells her body; a beach where cockle-pickers work in the middle of the night; the kitchen of the middle-class family where the ?servant?? sleeps or the bedroom in which a man imprisons his ?foreign wife.?? And so, the author establishes??We can find slavery closer to home. It is alive and well in the UK today??.range from 5000 to 25000. Many are starved imprisoned, beaen, sexually violated, physically abused and made to work eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.
The book rattles down the travails of destitute men and women. Farhia Nur stands a poverty-trampled Somalian who was refused asylum in the UK. Natasha Bulova is in her prime, a seventeen-year-old Russian girl who was trafficked for sex. A street child from Sierra Leone, Naomi Cont? brought to the UK as a fifteen-year-old domestic slave. Lin Bao Ren, a Chinese man evaded persecution in his own country by getting smuggled into the UK to land up in the dragnets of hazardous construction work. Amber Lobepreet is a woman in a forced marriage made to get starved, imprisoned and assaulted. ?Slavery is paradoxically both hidden and visible?.
?The defining feature of modern slavery is entrapment ? physical, emotional, psychological and financial-often sustained through threats of violence or actual violence.? The author doesn'tspare the state machinery. ?Current immigration legislation plays a central role in keeping people trapped in slavery. An individual is powerless while her immigration status is in the hands of somebody else whether it is an employer, a spouse, an agent, a trafficker or indeed the government as in he case of failed asylum seekers.?
Rahila Gupta in her introduction cites a traumatic incident bound to rattle her readers about the utter desperation to migrate. Two Sikh stowaways from Punjab managed to bungle on a plane to the UK. ?They hid in the wheel compartment of an aeroplane'sundercarriage and flew eight hours to London at a temperature of ?400 C. As the plane prepared to land at Heathrow, the wheels were lowered and the men fell frozen on the runway. Amazingly one of them survived.? Such tales of pregnant women holding onto the undercarriage of Eurostar from Paris to London, of overcrowded boats decanting their load of desperate migrants into the sea to escape capture by immigration patrols.
?They no more scratch at our consciousness than rats living below the floor-boards?. Isn'tit true that??Modern slavery destroys family life more effectively than the eighteenth-century slave trade?. The author brings out their sordid-tales in front of her readers who may well be dallying with la-di-dah escapades in the beau monde. The author throws gauntlet before the society vouching to be discernible global citizens ? ?A new century demands a radical break with the pas, highlighting a need to carve out a distinct response to the circumstances that face us now?. The author devises trenchant measures to curb the insidious effect of slavery emerging from he complex subject of immigration.
Rahila Gupta clears the decks for a real manumit of human civilisation.
(HarperCollins Publishers India, A-53, Sector 57, Noida-201 301, UP.)