Makwanpur - At Khayarbari village, nine-year-old Priya Bulanda has been hiding from a group of recruiters who are trying to lure her into joining an Indian circus. They are her Nepali neighbours who have a successful track record in tempting parents to part with their daughters in return for cash and the promise of education and a job. One of the recruiters, Majirlal Tamang, visits Priya's home every day, and she runs away whenever he comes around. "They insist I join the circus," says Priya. "But I told him I won't go. My friends returned after experiencing so much pain and difficulty." Just recently, she heard about the abuse of circus girls in India and Priya does not want to share their fate.
Local villagers who work as circus recruiters make a lucrative income by supplying young Nepali girls to Indian circuses, a trend that has seen an increase in the past decade. The most notorious recruiter is Kirti Bahadur Banjang. He has supplied nearly 20 girls and made enough money to build a big house. Sadly, parents are still willing to entrust their daughters' future with these unscrupulous men. Many children from Khayarbari and nearby villages have not returned home because only a small number manage to escape from the circus in Uttar Pradesh last week. Local activists say that the number of children joining the circus dropped after escapees narrated their horrific stories of abuse. But this alone is not likely to keep other children away as poor families are seduced by the idea of their children getting jobs.