All the high and mighty knew the happenings in Roop Nagar’s isolated pink house. Twenty years after, a young woman fled from the high-end complex to register a police case. Asif Iqbal Naik reports a housewife’s lucrative prostitution centre that pushed an estimated 600 girls into the soft leather trade.
In April, 2014, Ritu, a housewife who was desperately looking for a job to help her husband manage household expenses, was lured inside the infamous Pink House in Roop Nagar, Jammu by an unidentified lady promising her a domestic help’s job.
Once inside the most talked about house in the locality Ritu was raped by two men. It was no ordinary rape case. Both the men who raped Ritu had paid Rs 300 to the lady for bringing her inside the Pink House.
The lady told Ritu that she will be killed if she discloses her ordeal to anyone. She even tried to convince Ritu that if she continues to ‘please men’, she will be paid handsomely.
Almost two weeks later, Ritu, who hails from Mandal village in Satwari Tehsil, formally lodged a complaint against the lady who had taken her to the Pink House.
Ritu’s complaint proved to be a window into an organised crime syndicate that was in operation since last two decades in Roop Nagar.
When on April 21st police finally raided the Pink House, it came to fore that the owner of the house, Zahida Parveen, a forest department employee who originally hails from Baderwah, is the kingpin of a multi-million flesh trade.
What shocked everyone was the fact that Zahida was running the flesh trade from her house, known to her clients as Pink House, since last two decades without getting caught. The question that nobody in the administration or police is ready to answer is who protected Zahida all these years or how she managed to run the show without anybody finding it out?
Finally when Ritu’s story came out police arrested Zahida and filed a case against her.
According to reliable sources, over the years, with the help of top bureaucrats, senior police officers, and some ministers, Zahida managed to expand her ‘business’ to places outside Jammu and Kashmir. She used to send girls to places like Punjab and Himachal Pardesh.
Sources told Kashmir Life that during interrogation Zahida revealed names of some top Jammu based politicians including Ex-MLAs and MLCs; and police officials, bureaucrats, ministers, who were regular at her Pink House. Zahida also confessed that in last two decades she has pushed hundreds of college going girls who come from economically weaker sections of the society into the flesh trade. “Zahida used to supply them to ministers, top ranking police officials, bureaucrats. She has converted her residence into a safe house where people would come and do all sorts of bad things,” said the source. There were as many as 32 written complaints already pending against Zahida which were mostly filed by the locals. It is said that during festivals there used to be huge rush of youngsters coming in and out of her house.
Zahida told her interrogators that she started flesh trade from her government accommodation in Kachi Chawni area and when the ‘business’ expanded she constructed a house in Roop Nagar with the money she had earned.
The house, which is painted in pink and has been sealed by police since Zahida’s arrest, was constructed in such a way that multiple clients can enter and leave the building at a time without having to face each other. The Pink House has many separate rooms designed specially keeping in view the high profile nature of her clients who did not want to be seen or disturbed. Almost all the rooms are fitted with expensive air conditioners and have attached washrooms. The rooms had all the modern gadgets fitted in order to make customers feel comfortable so that they seek long-term relationships. It was one of the biggest houses in the locality with windows fitted with noiseless glasses.
The Pink House was protected by a grid of CCTV cameras placed tactically at locations in and around the house to keep tab on people visiting the building. There were cameras installed on the streets too so that Zahida knows what is happening outside.
The Dirty List
Most of the men who frequented the Pink House were students and businessmen from Doda, Baderwah and Kishtwar and Jammu. But a sizeable chunk of customers would also come from Kashmir valley, Udhampur, Ramban, Samba and Kathua.
According to sources there are at least two FIRs registered against Zahida. In 2005 her name surfaced in a vehicle theft case for which an FIR stands registered in Ghandhi Nagar police station. And again in 2009, locals held demonstrations against Zahida outside her residence after a youngster’s body was recovered from her residence. But on both the occasions she managed to give law a slip because of her high profile connections. No action was taken against her and she continued to run her ‘business’.
According to police sources there were around 600 girls working for Zahida. During the raid at Pink House, police seized a number of objectionable materials from Zahida’s house. It was only after the recovery of the material that police came to know the size of the racket run by Zahida and her team of middlemen.
How She Operated
It was revealed that Zahida had a unique way of staying in touch with the clients. She operated through a team of middlemen, both men, and women, who kept tab of clients and girls. They were always on the lookout for new and vulnerable girls, mostly from economically weaker sections of the society, who could be pushed into the flesh trade. These middlemen used threats, coercion, pressure tactics, promised jobs, money and other things to lure innocent girls into the trade. It was middleman’s job to inform customers about new girls. According to sources, these middlemen would stay in touch with wealthy customers who used to frequent Pink House. “They (middlemen) would keep special visitors updated about new girls whom they push into the trade,” said the source.
The sources said that Zahida also sent girls to the private accommodation of high profile persons or at the place of their choice.
Over the years Zahida has organised the flesh trade in such a manner that every customer’s detail was thoroughly verified before supplying him any girl. She entrusted the job of verification and background checks to her middlemen. This is done to save girls from embarrassment of going to the customers belonging to their areas of residence. It also helped girls to conceal their identity from the customers who hailed from the same areas.
Not the First Case
A couple of years ago Jammu city rocked with protests when a sex scandal involving high profile personalities came to light. It was operated from Durga Nagar area of Jammu and was exposed when a 15-year-old girl from Kishtwar was forcefully pushed into the racket by a lady named Santosha Devi. The victim recalled at least 30 incidents where she was raped by high profile people in places like Himachal Pardesh, Kud, Patnitop, and Jammu. The victim told the court that she was repeatedly raped by 7 men at a time and 4 men at another occasion. When the news got out Santosha Devi offered to marry the victim with her sister Saroja Devi’s son. Santosha Devi used her clout and got out on a bail. She is absconding since then.
Progress So Far
With kingpin Zahida already behind the bars and her Pink House sealed for good, the police are trying to convince victims, who were forcefully pushed into the flesh trade, to come forward and spill the beans.
Though Zahida has challenged the sealing of her house through her counsel the court has upheld its earlier judgment.
On the basis of Zahida’s detailed interrogation, police arrested her close aide and facilitator Shabnum on 27th of May. It was Shabnum who had promised Ritu job and lured her inside the Pink House, where she was raped.
During raid at Pink House, Jammu police has come across some objectionable video CDs, contact dairies and important mobile numbers of over 600 women/girls who are said to be those girls/women who were pushed into flesh trade by Zahida or her aides. There are contact details of some high profiles customers and middlemen in the dairies as well.
Keeping in view the nature of the case and the status of people involved, the police is said to be scrutinising the seized material very carefully. “We don’t want to leave any loopholes. We are verifying the names of customers and girls minutely so that we have a strong case against the guilty. They are some highly influential people involved who can get away if we don’t do our homework properly,” said a senior police officer who is privy to the case on the condition of anonymity.
But with most of the customers listed in Zahida’s dairies having political links, police is treading with caution. In order to prosecute these people police needs approval from the government which is quite difficult right now as J&K is going to polls in a couple of months.
“Charges related to flesh trading and immoral trafficking are hard to prove in court unless you don’t have solid evidence. That might be the reason police is taking its time,” said the source.
It is learnt that Zahida stays out of trouble by keeping some police officers in good humour. The sources said that she used to pay regular hafta to police in order to run her business tension free.
But in spite of high profile people involved in the sex racket and Zahida’s deep connections into the system, SSP Jammu Atul Goel and DIG Jammu range Shakeel Beigh stood firm and proved vital in closing the brothel. It was because of their efforts that Zahida is behind the bars, said the source.
Note: Name of the victims has been changed to protect their identity.