A terrible lesson to learn
December 6th, 2012
01:29 AM ET

A terrible lesson to learn

Editor's note:  "Operation Hope" will air on CNN International on Saturday, December 8 at 0900 GMT and 2000 GMT. It will also air Sunday, December 9 at 0200 GMT and 1000 GMT; and Monday, December 10 at 0300 GMT.

(CNN) – It was the first lesson a taxi driver tried to teach me when I moved to India.

A woman cloaked in dirt-stained sari holding a child with a bandaged and blood-soaked hand knocked on the taxi window. She pointed to the child and held out her hand for money.

Filled with a combination of sadness, guilt and responsibility I began to roll down my window. “No madam!” my taxi driver implored. “This is very bad,” he continued, shaking his head ever so slightly.

I agreed it was very bad but continued to roll down the window to hand over the 100 rupees ($1.80), which was all I managed to grab in the bottom of my unorganized and overstuffed purse before the traffic light changed.

Read: Horror to hope - a boy's remarkable recovery from brutal attack

As we drove off I was caught off guard when the taxi driver glared at me through the rear view mirror. It turned out that he was referring to me giving money when he said it was very bad. He said gangs ran the beggars and that sometimes they would maim children to get more sympathy and in turn get more money from unsuspecting passersby.

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I didn’t want to believe him. So I started asking other residents of New Delhi if that could possibly be true. Just about everyone I asked would shake their head and confirm what I didn’t want to hear. “It is true,” they would say. “How do you know?” I would ask, receiving a reply that it was “common knowledge.”

The truth is I didn’t fully believe what I was hearing because it was too terrible.

But after a couple of years living in India I ran across a story in an online version of a local paper that caught my attention. The article talked of the arrest of an alleged gang member who was accused of being part of a ring that snatched children from the streets, maimed them and forced them to beg in Bangladesh. Then the clincher: The suspect was caught because one child had survived a vicious attack that nearly killed him and he managed to identify his attackers. I couldn’t have imagined how vicious the attack was until I met the little boy.

My crew and I were already planning a trip to Bangladesh to do several other stories so we added one more hoping we might get a chance to talk to the boy, his family, investigators and the accused. It seemed like a long shot because investigators were still searching for members of the alleged gang and the family was in protective custody because the little boy was going to be the key witness in the case against the accused.

With the help of a local journalist, we found our way to the family and a human rights attorney who had helped in the case, along with a commander with the Rapid Action Battalion, the elite paramilitary force investigating the case. We contacted the family and they agreed to meet us. So in early 2011, I found myself sitting in a room with my crew waiting patiently for a recovering seven-year-old boy and his family. I was not prepared for what happened over the next 15 minutes.

The boy walked slowly in with his father and sat down on the couch across from us. He was absolutely adorable with his big brown eyes, long black lashes, and shy smile.

I walked over to greet him and showed him a small video camera so that he could see what he would look like if he wanted to do the interview. He was enamored with the camera and just wanted to play with it. Suddenly the shyness of meeting a stranger was gone. I cannot describe him well enough for you and I cannot show you a picture of him because of many reasons that include the fact that he is still in a witness protection program. But it seems nearly impossible that he was so friendly with complete strangers after what he’d been through.

As I backed up to sit back down and talk with his father through a translator, his father stopped me and began a series of motions that at first confused me and then made me gasp.

He was trying to pull his child’s pants down. He was visibly upset. He was desperately trying to tell me something but I was too busy trying to keep the boy's pants up while his father was trying to pull them down. I didn’t want the boy humiliated in front of strangers. Finally his father stopped pulling but he wanted everyone in the room to understand how terrible this all was and the life long problem his son would now have. The attackers had hacked off the child’s penis.

Above the waist the scars on the boy’s skin revealed a night of horror. The child’s chest and stomach had been slit open, his head bashed in so hard that it was indented on one side and his throat had been cut. By most accounts he should not have survived. But he did. We all talked for a while and then he, his mother and father agreed to sit down with us and tell their story.

Read: The surgery explained

Their story aired on CNN around the world.

At the time none of us had any idea that a year and a half later we would meet again under very different circumstances.

This time it was not because of a blatant disregard for the life of a child but because of quite the opposite. This time we were meeting again because several strangers on the other side of the globe had agreed to do something to restore what had been taken from this little impoverished boy.

The only thing this small group of strangers hoped for in return was to give the boy from Bangladesh a reason to believe in humanity again. It appears they got their wish.


soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. alan fischer

    SAD SAD SAD SAD

    December 6, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
    • Rose

      they do that in China too.

      December 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
      • mr774

        >>Rose
        they do that in China too.

        Is that why China had become 2nd largest economy on the globe?

        December 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
      • yaa

        Yes they do, I have stayed there. But they don't allow foreign press too..so no stories on that come out here

        May 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
      • unclehanzi

        No, they don't do that in China. Come here and see for yourself. You can go anywhere and see anything.

        November 21, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
      • Johnny Law

        unclehanzi – try reading the "Slumdogs in China’s Sin City" article that is linked to from this site and then read your statement again. You are incorrect, it does happen and pretending otherwise doesn't help anything except perhaps your national pride?

        April 2, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
  2. Isom

    I have read both parts of the story
    And see that the boy father is or was still in debt, for selling his rickshaw to get the boy to the hospital
    And that the boy still may be in need of some things (necessities)
    What is the link ofor contact to help the family, as would like to help in some way

    December 6, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • Johnny

      Ironically, by donating (yes even to the family), you may be endangering other children. This is a horrible, horrible situation, but donating money is the whole problem...and how this sick industry functions!!!! I have been to India many times, but after watching Slumdog Millionaire, my thinking has changed about donating money.

      December 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Reply
      • janice Thomas

        Please do not let Slumdog Millionaire shape your views on India!! Movies are just that, entertainment and an embellishment of the truth.

        November 22, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  3. Isom

    I have read both parts of the story
    And see that the boy father is or was still in debt, for selling his rickshaw to get the boy to the hospital
    And that the boy still may be in need of some things (necessities)

    What is the link of contact to help the family, as would like to help in some way

    December 6, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Johnny

      Think carefully about donating money. Will you endanger others?? Your generosity is obvious, but remember that this industry thrives on NAIVE compassion from foreigners and others. Indirectly we are fueling this heinious industry with the donations we give the minute we see a suffering child. SO SAD AND RIDICULOUS!

      December 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  4. Aaron Ashton (Poultney, Vermont)

    This a remarkable story about the power of positive and how it carries across the world. I am happy to read that the child has many reasons to believe in humanity. By sharing this story, you and your crew are restoring our faith in humanity as well.

    Thank you.

    December 6, 2012 at 10:37 am | Reply
  5. Barbara

    Is there any fund set up to help this family? This has got to be one of the most horrific, heartbreaking stories I've read in a long time. If ever a family deserved protection and political asylum, this is one. Let them immigrate to the US. At least there won't be the fear of retaliation for his testimony. There is so much corruption in Bangledesh.

    December 6, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  6. Kate

    I am heartbroken by this story. God bless the doctors in Dhaka who saved his life and the doctors at Johns Hopkins who gave him his masculinity back. There are good people in this world! WHERE CAN WE DONATE MONEY FOR THIS FAMILY???

    December 6, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
  7. A.W.

    The jerks who had that poor kid 90% to dead must have been hired bt the devil HIMSELF.

    December 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  8. Ivette

    My heart and prayers truly go out to this boy and his family. Please let us now where to send financial help for him and his family. To the animales who did this to him and to other like them, you will see justice in this life or the next.

    December 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  9. JasmineSun

    First of all, I would like to thank CNN free project for covering this story. There are so many people suffering in the world.
    For those who went through the torture but survived, the rest of life seems more difficult for them. I once read an article saying that there are two kinds of kids in the world, One is broken,and the other is damaged. It is hard to make a damaged kid become healthy physically, mentally, or spiritually. Love or helping hands can really help kids to believe that
    there are still some hopes and keep moving on without being occupied by hatred or revenge.

    December 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  10. Laura

    Kudos to those offering to send money to help the boy and his family; your hearts are in the right place. Though it may sound heartless after what this boy has been through, I think the ideal situation would be for the family to receive just enough money to recover what was spent to save the child and cover his ongoing medical and incidental expenses, and not a cent more. The remainder of any donations should be given to charities devoted to eradicating this horrific practice, or caring for other victims. I am concerned that if the family starts to receive a large influx of cash, this will increase the perverse incentives that created this problem in the first place. However harsh it sounds, we don't want to send the message "the more horrific the crime, the greater the payout." Sadly, I don't think it's without the realm of possibilty for parents to harm their own children, if they think it will lead to a lump sum payment of more money than they could make in a lifetime.

    December 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  11. Perris

    Simply put...enough is enough. What is happening to this planet, our global society. Every day, it's always something.
    So much crime, hate, corruption, evil, lies, mental torture, ...the list goes on. When I hear about stories like this, makes me wish that if I had the power to just shake the s*** out of all the people that are doing these wrong things. PEOPLE-we need to wake up, wake UP and get on our knees, pray and start taking positive action about all that is wrong in life.

    December 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    • FRE

      During the Middle Ages, there were professional beggars in Europe. They intentionally crippled their children so that they could beg effectively.

      Also, consider what the Chinese did to their little girls for centuries. Breaking the bones in their feet and binding their feet had a crippling effect.

      There has always been cruelty in the world and always will be. We cannot totally eliminate it, but must work against it as effectively as possible.

      October 17, 2013 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  12. Jer_DC

    I don't understand how having a mutilated penis would increase one's chances of receiving more money from begging, unless the beggar is naked. This story doesn't make sense.

    December 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • Brenda

      This wasn't the "normal" disfiguring the gangs do to up the begging intake. The boy wouldn't agree to beg for them and fought back when they tried to take him so they tried to kill him and/or send a message.

      December 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Reply
      • Jer_DC

        Yes; someone explained earlier that there was another CNN article which answered my question. Thanks.

        December 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Joe blow

      Yea I'm sure living in your safe little world you couldn't understand. I too was like you and then i stepped out of our great country and lived over seas. It wasn't chopped of to show peeps but to remind him of what they can do to him and no one can stop them, so he better work hard and collect a lot of money for them. They also often say they will kill your family if you run away. Hows that you get it now!!!!!!!!!!!! My heart goes out to this kid.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:05 am | Reply
      • Jer_DC

        @Joe blow: You're an idiot.

        October 17, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  13. Re

    Like others, I'd like to know how we can help this little boy and his family. Where can we donate money for this family?

    December 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Reply
    • Joe blow

      Please don't take this the wrong way but, don't give your money give your time. it's worth more and it will help both the person as well as yourself. Then comeback tell others what you have learned and share how they should try it. It will be life changing. I promise.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:21 am | Reply
  14. @Jer_DC

    If you read the other story, they cut off his penis and left him for dead because he refused to beg. Normally, they damage more visible parts such as limbs.

    December 6, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
    • Johnny

      Very good point!

      December 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  15. SQ

    I was lterally in tears when I first read this story. This is very heart-breaking. CNN please stay on top of this family's situation and continue to provide us with updates.

    December 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  16. sou155

    I hope we do not lose focus on the criminal gang who did this to this innocent boy and other children and bring them to justice. With international pressure, every one involved [legal/political system] are forced to make the right decisions. The gangs would not have so much power if the police were honest and just.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  17. bandimore

    Bloggers for HireMore, do pedigree tests?Of use of, But if.Orthopedic problems If, importance of fruits.The blood Studies About, if you rarely Need No.Mailing Each pack, arousal Such a.,

    December 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  18. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    WHEN WILL ALL THIS INHUMAN ACT STOP IN INDIA. THOUGH INDIA IS NOTED FOR NOTORIOUS ACTS BECAUSE SHE HAS A WEAK GOVERNMENT THAT'S WHY ALL THIS IS PLAYING IN THAT COUNTRY WITHOUT RESTRICTION'S.

    December 9, 2012 at 6:01 am | Reply
  19. Omera

    I was lterally in tears when I first read this story. This is very heart-breaking. After reading the story I understand that in order to pay for the boy's treatment the family had to sell their house, the father had to sell his rickshaw and had to take loan.
    CNN would you please provide us the contact information of this family, thus My husband and I can help this family to get back on their feet. Once we hear from you we will reach out to our friends and family as well. Thankyou.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  20. angel

    This also applies to wars of guns and bombs:The very 1st Commandment of God says,nothing is equal to God,so man is not equal to God,which means the power of life and death belongs only to God.God Created all life,and God has appointed man once to die,this means God has reserved the power of life and death to Himself-so no man can take it for any reason,not even the State by execution,by Capital Punishment.The sword is not used in vain,man will eventually learn that the power of life and death belongs only to God,that ALL life is precious and sacred to God,not just some life,not just certain life,but ALL LIFE. The Death Penalty sometimes kills innocent people,and the Bible says,God doesn't kill innocent people,not even by mistake,God doesn't make mistakes men do.For as man sows he reaps,to kill a person cheapens the value of life,even by execution,it teaches that all life is not really precious and sacred to God,when it really is.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
  21. Matheus

    Oh Sarah, these photos are just braekhtating. You are so talented and you have a gorgeous boy to work with! (Two of them, actually, right?!) I still think Owen and Adrian look alike. Same blue eyes and and their mouths look similar weird. Anyway LOVE those photos!

    December 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  22. Lachman K. Chandiramani

    Any human being maiming children should be hanged to death without any trial, or shot to death immediately.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Reply
    • Johnny

      Agreed, but only if they are guilty. Not if they are just arrested. I am sure there are many innocent people in jails around the world. Careful trials are necessary.

      December 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Reply
    • Frank Eggers

      Wrong.

      Before they can be punished, they have to be proved guilty. Otherwise, an innocent person could be hanged and a guilty person could go free which, unfortunately, is more common than we would like to believe.

      November 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  23. Johnp234

    Didn't I see this in Slumdog Millionaire? I didn't think they made it up.

    May 2, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
  24. Ralphrepo

    A sad tale indeed. But I find it stunningly ironic and remarkable that a reporter for CNN would actually know so very little about the world that she reports in, to be hearing of it for the first time. Frankly, beggar children gangs and the things they had to suffer through, including rape, maiming, and amputations are replete across the world throughout history. A romanticized version in the guise of Oliver Twist recalled this tragic Victorian reality, before the industrial revolution lifted the bulk of the UK out of poverty. Just about anywhere where there is poor who have nominal contact with those well off enough to have still sympathy, and this sort of thing crops up. In China, it was such a well known phenomenon that popular television series often incorporated such events into their plots and storyline. That said, the only thing charitable to help this family would be to spend enough money to remove them from their country and bring them to the US. Sure, we're not going to save all of the world. But if American guilt is strong enough, then perhaps they can save at least one family by removing them from the source of their agony; their society. We are obviously NOT going to change India any time soon. Thus, to do anything less would be moot and may even endanger them further.

    May 3, 2013 at 5:26 am | Reply
  25. Joe blow

    This story is sad but I have to tell you it happens every day here in Thailand. the children are stolen or sold by parents ( mostly from the north east) Gangs chop a hand or a foot or an eye to get sympathy. Then the children are dropped off at their daily work spot to beg change from you and me. Kid are given ketamine to forget so gang members are never caught if police decide to talk to them. which doesn't happen often as they are getting a cut from the gangs money. Oh wait have i said too much? To bad it's all true! Sometime people just suck.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:55 am | Reply
  26. Crosswinds

    False religion, or no religion breeds cruelty towards you fellow human being........

    ......Romans 3:18......

    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    October 19, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
  27. fixmydwbi

    What if the money spent fighting unwanted wars was instead used for fighting humanity crimes like these? What if?

    November 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  28. RG

    When I read this, I'm reminded, man is an animal after all, a beast. Unspeakable / atrocious. I'd like to think, 90% of mankind is 'normal'. The last 10% have their mental circuitry messed up. The normal 90% better be on the lookout!

    November 22, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  29. Tatiana Covington

    The correct response to enslavement is murder. The man who abuses you, and whom you kill, will never bother you again.

    November 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  30. barbaraviale

    Reblogged this on The year I never said no.

    June 24, 2014 at 5:13 am | Reply

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