21 January, 2021

The Last Trapeze Act

A child welfare foundation helps win freedom for Nepali children plucked from their homes and traded to soulless Indian circuses

Charles Haviland
The Last Trapeze Act
Palakkad, Kerala, April 14, 2004. The Great Indian Circus show is in full swing, but backstage there is commotion. Indra Dahal of the Nepal Child Welfare Foundation (NCWF) and three Indian colleagues from the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) are here to 'raid' the circus. They want to rid it of its child labour. Dahal waits to talk to child artistes as they come off stage. "I went near the girls' tent. I told the children who I was, that they were safe and could come with me."

Accompanying the 'raiders' are three parents who have come from Makwanpur district in Nepal, an area notorious for child trafficking to India. One, Bishnu Maya, says, "I saw my son, Rajkumar. He is 18 and had been gone five years. Then I saw my 15-year-old daughter Laxmi. We all cried a lot." "The circus owner cried too," adds Laxmi, with a grim sense of humour. "It was the end of his business."

For a 'raid', this one's scrupulously organised. The team has come with the local police, although, says Dahal, they came grudgingly. They were concerned about the circus owner and the...


To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

In this article:

More from Charles Haviland

Latest Magazine

January 25, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section