It started with a simple loan to pay for a wedding. It turned into brutal enslavement for an entire family. It wound up as a triumphant victory over bondage, thanks to Free the Slaves and our front line partner group in India, MSEMVS.
Five years ago, Jaswant borrowed $167 from a farm and factory owner to finance the wedding of his eldest daughter. The interest rate was outrageous — and illegal — and it quickly became impossible for Jaswant to repay the debt. It’s clear the lender was after something more when he lent the money: slave laborers for his brick factory. Even though debt-bondage slavery is illegal in India, Jaswant and his entire family were forced onto trucks and taken to a sweltering brick kiln 35 miles away.
Family members were forced to work 14-hour days, including the children, and they were locked-up at night to prevent escape. Jaswant was beaten when he asked to be paid.
Fortunately, MSEMVS had been working to organize and liberate enslaved villagers in the nearby community of Garai. After a particularly severe beating this May, Jaswant managed to escape and make it to Garai to seek help. Thanks to their training, villagers knew just what to do. They got Jaswant to a local hospital and notified MSEMVS.
Soon a police rescue team headed to the kiln. A news crew captured the dramatic scene for Indian television.
“I lost my hope to be freed because there was not a single person who could listen to us or see our terrible situation,” Jaswant said. “It is MSEMVS and its commitment by which I am free now and enjoying life with my family.”
A legal case has been opened against the slaveholder. Jaswant’s family has been relocated to a safe location, and his children are now in school.