The onset of the kanwar season in Haridwar has coincided with the unearthing of three successive sex rackets within a span of one week from the holy city and its suburbs indicating that a thriving flesh trade operates in the region during the annual pilgrimage undertaken mostly by young men.
In the latest crackdown on Friday night from the upscale Shrawannath Nagar locality near the Haridwar railway station, police arrested four men and eight women hailing from Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Nepal. According to Haridwar police station in-charge, C B Singh Adhikari, one of the arrested women confessed that they had come to the city “keeping in view the huge influx of kanwariyas and hoping to find good business”.
The successive busting of gangs involved in the flesh trade seems to indicate that the demand for sex goes up during this time. On Thursday, four women and three men were arrested from a guest house at Kaliyar near Roorkee in Haridwar district for running a sex racket. Earlier, on July 8, a prostitution ring was busted by the Haridwar police. Anti-trafficking units of the police had raided two hotels, Shiva and Natraj in the Shrawannath Nagar locality, arresting one man and two women in their 30s who hailed from Jwalapur near Haridwar and Manglaur near Roorkee.
A few local residents believe that gangs operate with impunity during the mela season because the police is almost completely involved in managing the huge congregation of pilgrims for a fairly long period. “During the mela, police personnel are occupied with maintaining the law and order situation in the area, and many gangs take advantage of this to operate their businesses. Often, during this season, I have seen women indulging in flesh trade almost openly around the railway station and bus stand with the help of rickshaw pullers, auto drivers and dhaba owners,” said Amit Kumar Sharma, a resident.