Kasi knew this was his one shot. As the sun streaked his bare back, the 70-year-old knelt desperately on the dusty ground and pleaded with officials for his family’s freedom. For relief from the years of a relentless slave owner’s control.
Seeing Kasi’s humble moment catalysed local officials to rescue him and 41 other people from two wood-cutting units last week. The survivors are now on the road to getting the safety and dignity they truly deserve.
Kasi’s image has also awakened thousands more to the reality of modern slavery around the world—and his passion has fueled us to keep up the fight against it.
Every day, the families faced unspeakable cruelty and deprivation—from racist verbal tirades, to physical beatings for working too slowly, to starvation and dehydration as punishment. The 16 children never went to school. Two weeks ago, a woman had to give birth to her baby girl in an open field.
one woman later shared. “We didn’t dare try to escape. If we did, they might catch our relatives and force them to work. They have people everywhere.”
An IJM staff member described, “There were no physical boundaries or walls that stopped the victims from leaving the worksite. It was the powerful hold of fear.”
remembers one IJM staff member. “This was their first ray of hope, but instead of smiles, I saw fear in their faces … From the youngest to the oldest, every palm was marred with scars and bruises from cutting trees and removing thorns.”
Authorities reassured the victims they would be safe and brought all 42 to freedom at a government office, where they got warm meals as they shared their harrowing testimonies.
Kasi and the other survivors worried that speaking up would lead to more violence from the owner. But an RBLA leader named Kalpana—who was liberated by IJM in 2013—encouraged them, saying, “You must not be afraid of the owner. The owner must be afraid of you. Walk with your head held up high.”
From there, the families bravely shared the truth of their captivity and laid a powerful case against the suspected slave owners. At last, they were free.
Even broader, the image of Kasi’s powerful plea for freedom has also been shared rapidly—even as front-page news in The Times of India—and has ignited critical conversations on the existence of modern slavery.
At IJM, we look forward to staying in this fight and standing up for others like Kasi—for those who desperately need an intervention—until all are free.
You can be part of this movement by joining us as a Freedom Partner. It means keeping us ready to rescue victims like Kasi when they need us, and allowing us to reliably walk with survivors like Kalpana until they are strong enough to lead on their own.
International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.Find out more
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