Shahnawaz was enslaved in a carpet loom in Uttar Pradesh. He was liberated by activists from Bal Vikas Ashram (BVA), an organization that liberates and rehabilitates child slaves. He was found weaving carpets, wearing only underwear, and had been forced to weave rugs for 12-15 hours a day, beginning at 6am. From BVA he received medical care, counseling, literacy training, and basic rights education. More than 300,000 children are estimated to be trapped in India’s carpet industry in India, and there are also an estimated 500,000 children in the same industry in Pakistan. Most of India’s carpets are woven in Uttar Pradesh, where the majority of workers are low-caste Hindu boys. Some are lured into bondage by agents’ promises to their parents that they will receive good wages, and others are kidnapped. The boys are forced to work for no pay, for 10-18 hours a day, seven days a week. They are beaten, tortured, branded, kept half fed and half clad, and are usually made to sleep in the loom shed. Cuts and wounds are frequent.
I will give a great punch on the face of the trafficker if he enters my village again. I will be a great trouble for him. He has tortured me very much; he did not allow me to play with my friends. I was a very small child in the loom, eight years old. I was there for one month this one month was very scary for me. My family is at the breadline hence my parents fell easily into the trick of the trafficker. He told my father that I will be getting 200 rupees [$4] a month and I will be working in good conditions at a good place. But that man has cheated me and my family. I was forced to work for more than 16 hours a day, with insufficient food to eat and in a room where there was too much suffocation because of the smell of the woolen threads used for weaving carpet. Every day we were made to complete at least 200 rupees worth of part of a carpet. Once a week or so, I was paid ten or 20 rupees [$0.20-0.45] by the broker who brought me. He was getting all my money, near about 110 rupees [$2] from the owner. Same was done with the other children too.
Being a small child I was getting beatings from the broker and sometimes from the owner. Most of the time that broker was there to supervise our work. I never dreamt of such a poor condition at this age when other children play and enjoy. I was working continuously on the loom for more than 16 hours daily. I feel that this is an injustice to we poor children.
Narrative as told to Free the Slaves, April 6, 2005, at Bal Vikas Ashram, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.